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A New Beginning

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It felt weird to be back in his apartment.

The relief was finally setting in as he realises his father is locked away and he is no longer in danger. He can’t help the weird feeling in the pit of his stomach though when he thinks about his dad being in prison now.

There’s a sadness there for everything that had happened; a childish melancholy for the loss of what could have been if his dad had just been a loving and caring human being with a semblance of emotion other than rage. He didn’t know if he ever believed that would ever have come to fruition, every time his dad had been even remotely not unkind, he had been suspicious of the angle, of what possible play he was trying to make, of the intentions behind his behaviour. He knows deep down his dad would never have changed but it doesn’t stop him from feeling the anxiety around it.

He enters to a team of cleaners, aggressively pulling everything out of his kitchen cupboards to scrub them, big humming machines to buff the tiles in the hallway, two women putting on the new bed sheets he had arranged for; knowing they were Gerri’s favourite.

He has a lot to do today.

He had decided after speaking to Gerri this morning that he was going to make this day special; an attempt to drive away all of the negative emotions that were currently bubbling within him.

He grabs one of the women after they make up the bed, sets about getting her to help him move the shit he didn’t need in his closet into one of the closets in one of the spare rooms upstairs.

Of course, when he says help, he means he threw the shit on the bed and it was the responsibility of the maid to find a place for it upstairs. It’s the most concentrated he’s ever been, successfully clearing out a few drawers and half of his walk-in closet for her. He determines that if this, no, he had to think positively, when this became a permanent thing then they would need to consider either rearranging shit so they had more space for everything or they were going to have to find a bigger place with a different layout.

He lies on the bed spent after it, panting like it was a fucking work out.

He never would have imagined himself doing something as fucking monotonous as clearing out half his closet for a girlfriend. The last ones ended up just throwing their shit somewhere, finding a hanger in the closet to put things on, or slyly putting their shit in the spare closet’s upstairs. He never considered clearing fuck all out for any of them before. But he knows that he didn’t really want any of them here; he knows he always felt stifled when they tried to work their way into his apartment. He had felt crowded, suffocated when they constantly surrounded him; too much fucking intimacy for his liking, Tabitha really the only one who understood what personal fucking space was.

He knows though that he doesn’t feel that way about Gerri. He knows the roles are reversed this time. If one of them was going to feel smothered it was her, and he wants to do anything he can to make sure she doesn’t, he wants to pass this trial, wants to impress her with his maturity so that she stays.

For once, he feels a little guilty about his past girlfriends, realises what it might have been like to be them. He pushes it to the back of his mind, decides instead to go through with his plan to set up a rosy night for her like she had suggested; grabs his shit, calls his car, and goes out into the city to pick up the shit he needs to make that happen.

 

****

 

She’s in the car on the way to his apartment, smiling as she looks out to city as it passes her. She felt a little odd leaving her apartment, knowing she may not be back for a while, or ever for that matter.

It hadn’t been home per se, but it had been hers and hers alone. It had been the first thing that was only hers in such a long time; the first indication of her independence after Baird had died.

It had been set up the way she had wanted it, everything she needed exactly where she wanted it, and everything clinically perfect and uncluttered.

Roman’s apartment was tastefully done, relatively orderly, but it wasn’t her style; far too contemporary for her liking.

However, an apartment was something that could be changed, that she was not so worried about.

Whilst she has a little anxiety about the idea of losing her independence, she can feel her excitement growing too. The fact that they were finally going public, that after months of sneaking around and not being able to see each other when they wanted would finally be over.

They would be able to hold hands in public, that they would be able to seek that fun and comfort at the end of a shitty day when they most needed it. The fact that they could finally start going out into the city and enjoying things as soon as the media died down, it was exhilarating. It felt like the introduction of a new chapter; a hopefully less stressful and peaceful chapter.

She can’t wait to get started.

 

****

 

She lets herself in with her key, balancing three garment bags over her shoulder, dragging her suitcase on wheels behind her as a mix of grapefruit and Clorox hits her. She smiles at the familiar smell, at how it smells so similar to her apartment, and how it instantly feels like home.

“Rome?” She shouts out, tucking the suitcase next to the couch by the door, walking through the hallway with the garment bags still over her shoulder as she seeks him out, finally hearing a thumping and mumbling coming from the bedroom.

“Fuck… shit… hey!” He shouts. “You’re early!” He shouts again as he scurries out of the bedroom into the hallway, closing the door firmly behind him, looking back over his shoulder to it nervously.

“Yeah,” she smiles. “There’s apparently a bit of traffic so Charlotte decided to head over at seven,” she tells him gently as he leans in to give her a peck. “That okay?

“Yeah, sure. Cool,” he sighs.

“Your face looks better today,” she observes, her free hand moving up to stroke his black eye.

“It’s not as sore,” he shrugs. “Uhm…,” he hums before noting the bags she’s lugging over her shoulder. “Fuck, sorry,” he scoffs. “Let me take those,” he shakes his head, taking them off her shoulder. “Go and relax, and I’ll hang these up. I… uhm… I put on the fire in the main room tonight. Thought it would be a bit different. Unless you’d rather go to the living room to watch the news or whatever.”

“Main rooms fine,” she says softly with a smile.

“Ehm… I didn’t have the time to take your wine out. But it’s in the fridge if you want to grab it. Or there’s red in the wine rack if you’d rather have that,” he says walking backwards, still rabbling. “Or you can tell me whichever you want, and I can get it once I’ve done this.”

“I can get it,” she smiles through a frown, noting is unusual behaviour, as she watches him nervously shuffling back to the bedroom. “You have a preference?”

“Whatever you want!” He shouts as he goes into the bedroom.

“Okay,” she shakes her head, moving to the kitchen to get the wine from the fridge, pouring them a large glass each as he re-enters.

“Uhm…,” he ventures, leaning against the frame of the kitchen door. “You’ve packed light,” he observes through an awkward laugh, pointing to the suitcase with his head over his shoulder.

“Oh,” she laughs. “The rest of it is coming tomorrow. Maria is having it brought over, so I didn’t have to bring it all up.”

“Ah, okay,” he sighs in relief, as she walks towards him with a glass of wine. “I was going to say because you basically change your coats, like, every day and there’s no way that little suitcase could hold all that.”

“Absolutely not,” she laughs, passing him his glass as he moves out of her way. “I just brought what I needed for tonight and tomorrow. It’s all coming tomorrow,” she smiles as she walks towards the main room.

They never usually came in here; he always had said that Tabitha spent all her time in here, whereas he much preferred the living room. The couches were comfier there, he had a television, his PS5 set up. He never really did see much need for the main room unless he was entertaining.

It’s a perfectly nice room. Very muted with a cream corner couch with two armchairs next to them, making it into a horseshoe all facing a large pale marble fireplace that reached the ceiling, topped off with a large ugly sculpture by the window that she didn’t really want to spend her nights staring at. However, it always looked a little uncomfortable to her, a bit bare, not a lot of reason to sit in here when she visited considering she was often working and liked to spend her nights when she got home watching ATN and PGM to assess what news was circulating so she could keep on top of things. The living room was cosier, a place to relax in her opinion; a feeling apparently mirrored by Roman.

“That’s unusual that you chose to sit in here tonight,” she notes with a smirk. “I’ve never even seen the fire on.”

“We can go into the living room if you want,” he says quickly with his eyes wide, pointing over his shoulder.

“No, no,” she protests lightly, sitting down on the corner of the large couch, kicking off her shoes and moving her legs up onto it outstretched to face the fireplace. “It’s nice in here.”

“Well,” he says walking over to the couch, sitting a few feet away from her, taking a gulp of his wine. “I thought you might like to sit in here when you wanted some peace and quiet. Maybe when you wanted to read or something. Tabitha liked to chill out in here with the fire; scrolled on her iPad most of the time. She liked it more than the living room, but I always found it kind of, ya know, cold.”

“It’s a nice room. I’m sure I would like to read in here,” she narrows her eyes at him, taking in his twitchy behaviour, the scratching off the back of his head, his fiddling with the glass, his eyes darting everywhere in the room apart from towards her. “What’s up, Rome?”

He finally looks around to her, noting her expectant eyes, her small smirk.

“Nothing,” he chokes. “Nothing at all,” he says taking another gulp of his wine.

“Come on, honey. Tell me,” she smiles, though he still doesn’t look up.

“Nothing to tell,” he mumbles as her lips purse.

“Is this because of last night? With Shiv?” She asks curiously.

“Nah, nah,” he mumbles. “We sorted it all out.”

“Did something else happen?”

“I don’t want to talk about it just now but it’s nothing bad. It’s not that.”

“Okay,” she twists her lips in consideration. “Then are you having regrets about me moving in?” She ventures softly.

“What?” He asks confused, looking around to her finally. “No. Are you?”

His eyes are wide, his chest holding in a large inhalation, and she realises he’s afraid.

“No,” she tells him seriously. “But you seem worried. If this is going to work, our communication has to be open even more than it was before.”

He sighs, looks down to his wine, hunching over to lean on his knees.

“I just want you to be comfortable,” he divulges quietly.

“I am comfortable. Has something suggested I’m not?”

“No,” he whinges. “But I just, ya know, don’t want to fuck it up.”

“Honey, I’ve not even been here five minutes. That would be a record if you were able to do that in this time,” she scoffs, trying to lighten the situation.

“You know what I mean,” he groans draining his wine and sitting it on the coffee table in front of him, running his idle hands through his hair.

“I feel like I would feel a lot more comfortable…,” she begins as he looks around to her expectantly, waiting for her need so he can fulfil it, “… if you weren’t sitting several feet away from me and had your head settled right here,” she smiles softly, tapping her thighs, looking into his eyes with mirth.

He sighs, releasing a breath, giving a small relieved smile, crawling across the couch towards her, placing his head on her lap, lying on his back perpendicular to her across the other end of the couch, as she instantly runs her hand through his hair, her wine glass perched on the back of the couch.

“I tried to make an effort,” he reveals with his eyes closed, humming at the feeling of her touch.

“I can tell,” she reveals. “I can smell it.”

“You noticed?” He opens his eyes to look at her.

“Jo Malone Grapefruit candles. Didn’t realise you picked up on that.”

“Well they’re all over your apartment,” he divulges. “I went to the store today and bought like twenty of them. Lit them up all over the apartment. Well I got the cleaners to. I got you some of the bath oil shit as well. Thought you might want to take one later.”

“That’s very sweet, honey. Very thoughtful.”

“I just want you to be comfortable.”

“I realise that, and it was very kind, but this is your apartment too. You also need to be comfortable.”

“I like the smell. Reminds me of you, so that’s fine with me.”

“I don’t just mean that, honey. I saw the fridge is also filled with my favourite wine,” she chuckles with quirk of her eyebrows.

“Yeah, so? I got like three crates of white and three crates of the red you like. Is that wrong?” He asks, genuinely wanting to know the answer.

“No, but you didn’t have to.”

“But I wanted to,” he retorts as though it were obvious.

She realises that with everything that’s been going on with Logan, with work, and all the bullshit stress, she’s neglected to even consider that Roman may never have moved in with a girlfriend before. She had thought they had, but until this point, she had neglected to ask.

“Rome, have you ever had a girlfriend move in before?”

“Uhm… kind of. Never like officially in terms of a decision. Like they ended up moving more and more of their shit in and would stay over more often. But not like them giving up their apartments and staying over every night.”

“Did they ever pay some of the bills at least?” She asks curiously.

“Fuck no,” he scoffs.

So, he hadn’t moved in with a girlfriend before, she realises.

“Okay,” she sighs, taking a sip of her wine. “We’re going to have to talk about this then and set some ground rules.”

“Wait, what?” He asks confused, looking up to her until she moves her hand to his chest, undoing one of the buttons, to run her hand soothingly across his chest, his lips caressing the soft skin of her forearm. “Rules for what?”

“It’s not a bad thing. We just need to figure some things out. Like paying bills. I will be paying bills here,” she tells him resolutely.

“Fuck that! I don’t want you to pay bills. Why the fuck would you pay bills here when you don’t need to?” He protests, looking up to her with a frown.

“Because that’s what couples do when they move in with one another,” she reveals.

“But you still need to pay for your apartment,” he reminds her.

“I own my apartment. I won’t be living there so the bills will be drastically less.”

“I own this apartment, too. It’s not like a pay a mortgage,” he laughs as she rolls her eyes.

“I want to pay my way, Roman. I’m not a kept woman. I pay my way with everything and this is no different. I want everything to be equal,” she tries to explain.

“But why when I can afford it,” he shakes his head.

“Because I’m not a little girl who can’t afford it,” she argues.

“Okay, fine whatever,” he huffs, his hands falling to his sides as his body stiffens.

“It’s not like I’m going to be paying more than you. Just show me your bills and we can figure out how much everything is and then take food into account with that and we can decide who pays what while I live here,” she explains diligently.

“While you live here?” He frowns, sitting up as her hand releases from his shirt. “You’re already talking like you’re planning on leaving.”

“Roman,” she warns. “Don’t put words in my mouth. I said what I said. While we both are living collectively under one roof, everything will be equal. That’s how I want it and I’ve already explained why.”

“I don’t handle the bills. My accountants do,” he mumbles as she brings her legs up to her chest, shifting over to face him on the couch.

“Then give me their contact details and I will talk to them. It doesn’t have to be completely split to the cent. It might just be that I pay the food and the electricity, and you pay the rest. Do you see what I mean?”

“Yeah, I get it,” he mumbles again as she narrows her eyes, flexing her legs out towards him to kick his thigh until he looks up to her, splaying her legs across his thighs as he smiles, moving his hands to knead them.

“Trust me, it’s better this way,” she smiles, as Roman nods silently. “That’s another thing. Your cleaning services. Are they efficient?”

“I mean, they clean shit?” He shrugs, looking around to her.

“Wow. A rave review,” she deadpans.

“I mean, I hired extra ones and paid extra for a deep fucking clean for you coming today because I know you like things fucking sparkling, but I can’t say I’ve noticed before now,” he offers with another shrug.

“Okay, I’ll keep an eye on it,” she bites the inside of her mouth. “I assume you don’t have a housekeeper or anything like that?”

“Nah, I didn’t see the need when I’m barely here and only get takeout. The cleaners have a key to let themselves in and out and drop of laundry and shit.”

“Would you mind if I brought Maria over here with me then since she has nothing to do at mine for now. It took me years to find someone I trust and who knows exactly how I like everything.”

“Yeah, whatever you want,” he offers with a shrug, her smile widening in relief. “As long as I get to pay half her wages,” he gives a shit eating grin, his eyes fluttering.

“Using my own logic against me,” she smiles, running her hand over the back of his neck. “She will be a part of the split expenses then, yes.”

“I like Maria.”

“She’s great. She can get all our groceries for us so your fridge might have something other than wine in it,” she smirks. “And she can keep an eye on the cleaning service you have too. If they’re substandard, we can just use mine.”

“What’s with you and cleaning?” He laughs, running his hand down her shin.

“I like everything clean and tidy. That simple.”

“Nah, but it’s like an OCD.”

“I don’t like mess. Something you should note if you don’t want to get on my bad side,” she quirks an eyebrow with a smirk.

“Who? Moi? I am spotless,” he jokes.

“Uhu,” she rolls her eyes. “You forget I’ve stayed here before Roman Roy. I’ve noticed that you seem to feel the need to stare at your teeth as you brush them, getting toothpaste all over the mirror so I can barely see my reflection. That you throw your clothing around a room for other people to pick up instead of into a hamper. And that you can’t seem to turn off a damn light,” she mocks, her caresses softening the blow of the reality.

“Hey! Turning off a light isn’t cleaning or mess,” he notes.

“But it’s wasteful,” she smiles, leaning over to peck his lips.

“Fuck, it’s like being back in military school,” he jokes. “Except I’m fucking my drill sergeant.”

“Is this a new fantasy?” She flirts. “Am I going to have to get you to make a bed and bounce a quarter off it to get you hard,” she laughs, her fingers tickling the back of his neck now.

He finds his lip curling at the thought, as the idea of Gerri in a military uniform, barking orders at him, forcing him to give her head when his chores aren’t completed to her satisfaction, as he feels his pants becoming suddenly tight.

She laughs, watching him shift to make himself more comfortable as he remains silent.

“Earth to Roman,” she whispers in his ear, placing a kiss under his ear as he turns around to her grinning.

“I could get behind that role play,” he smiles, kissing her hard as she laughs into it, pulling back quickly.

“Tell me this first, what are you most afraid of with us moving in together? There’s obviously an issue.”

“I’m not afraid,” he whispers, tightening his grasp on her thigh through the linen pants, brushing his nose against hers.

“You seemed pretty jumpy when I got here,” she whispers back, pecking his lips before pulling back and taking a sip of her wine, whilst he looks down to his hand kneading above her knee.

“I just don’t want to fuck it up. I don’t want to make it so shitty that you don’t want to stay here,” he reveals quietly.

“Is that what you think? That this is like a test? That it’s a pass/fail, and if you fail, I’m going to walk?” She asks gently, brushing her hand through his hair above his ear, as he shrugs in answer.

“Oh, honey,” she soothes. “It’s not like that. If you don’t pick up a towel, I’m not just going to call the whole thing off.”

“But it’s a trial. A trial by definition is a test,” he says, looking up to her again.

“But it’s not like that,” she reassures. “It’s not a case of you having to impress me and do everything I want, or I pack it in. It’s making sure we are far enough along in this relationship to live together. That we know each other and are comfortable enough with each other to live together. I was going to be living here for a few weeks regardless of whether or not it was a trial for making it permanent. I shouldn’t have said anything,” she sighs sadly. “I should have just suggested it at the end of staying here a while if it was going well.”

“No,” he protests loudly. “I’m glad you suggested it. It gives me some fucking hope that this is actually moving forward. It means I can actually try to make an effort, so we do shit together to make it a real thing. I just… I’m not making any sense.”

“I get it, Rome. But this isn’t a test for you. It’s to make sure that there isn’t something substantially different when we’re always together that makes the relationship not work. A lot of people have a little trial living together before moving in now from what I hear. It’s also to see how suitable our surroundings are for us. To see if there are things we could change to make things more comfortable for us as a couple. Like whether we need an office to work in, whether we need a bigger closet, separate bathrooms, or just more space in general. Or maybe we don’t need all the space we have and want something a bit more intimate. Things like that before we upheaval everything from one apartment to the other.”

“Change whatever you want,” he reassures solidly, as she offers a wry smile. “No seriously. You want another bathroom, we’ll build it. You want the whole closet? Take it and I’ll put my shit upstairs.”

“You’re missing my point. This isn’t about what Gerri wants. It’s about what we both want collectively to maximise our space. What if I said, I want a house without any TV’s?” She challenges with a raised eyebrow as he grimaces.

“Exactly,” she laughs. “We’ve only ever stayed over and been content in each other’s space because we knew it was the other persons and were mere guests. But the more we live together; we’ll realise what we might need. We might want a separate bathroom from each other, or just a separate sink, or we might be fine with just the one sink. Like you suggested earlier, I might want a little quiet room where I read, while you want a room where you can play your video games and shout at teenagers down a headset. Or we might be content to do those things sitting together because we’re happy with the way things are. You see what I mean?”

“Yeah, I get it,” he nods. “It’s not just a test for me.”

“No,” she smiles. “You don’t get a performance review at the end of the month. It’s about getting to know each other more, so we can adjust the way we do things to make things even easier. Like my need for things to be tidy is very important to me and that means you may need to make an effort to be conscious of that, so my head doesn’t continuously explode,” she laughs as he grins. “But I also need to adjust myself to not be so obsessive because you’re a grown man who can leave your underwear on the floor from time to time. There will be other things. Things you’ll find irritating about me and vice versa, but if we can communicate and try and be understanding then it’ll be fine,” she soothes.

“You make it sound like it’s going to be all shitty. Like we’re just going to spend the whole time being angry at each other,” he mumbles sadly.

“No, it won’t be all shitty but there will be moments because that’s normal. Like the fact that I will probably have to work from home most evenings. That’s probably going to get on your nerves. That it won’t be so easy to coax me away from work into bed because while it was okay to do once a week when we saw each other, I won’t be led astray every night because it’s my job that I get paid a shit load to do. Not to mention, I’ll probably encouraging you to do work alongside me. That’s going to get on your nerves,” she laughs a little at his nose progressively scrunching up.

“Fuck,” he huffs. “I forgot I’m also going to be living with my boss.”

“Your boss and a drill sergeant,” she repeats with raised eyebrows. “What happened to hot goddess and siren? You really do know how to flatter a girl,” she jokes as he looks around to her with his face still scrunched up as she reaches her hand over to put her wine glass down on the coffee table. “It won’t be all fighting and work you know,” she lowers her voice a little more seductively as she looks back around to him. “There’ll be plenty of everything else.”

“Mmm,” he hums, his hand trailing up her thigh. “That’s the bit I was looking forward to.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” he breathes as her lips move closer to his. “I thought it was going to be all fucking on every surface. Multiple orgasms and sex dungeons. Finding all the ways I could get you to squeal. Spooning you every night and lying watching the news with my head in your lap,” he offers, quirking his eyebrows.

“Mmm… I don’t know about sex dungeons but there’s no reason there can’t be plenty of the rest of it,” she breathes low against his lips, her hot breath swooshing into his mouth.

“Gerri,” he whispers back, before he kisses her solidly, pushing her down onto the couch as his hand grips her hip. He hears her moan when he pushes into her mouth, languidly caressing her tongue with his as her hands grip the back of his neck, one moving to exploring the expanse of his shoulders as his hand ventures up under her shirt.

She knows if this goes any further, she’ll never get packed or get any of the work they had to do done.  

“Rome,” she whispers, moving to push him back a little.

“What? We’ve never done it on this couch,” he breathes nipping at the underside of her jaw as she gasps. “Thought we could christen it. There’s a romantic fire and everything.”

“We have things to do,” she tries to protest as her eyes close at the feeling surrounding her.

“This is all we have to do,” he tells her as his open kisses move to her pulse point, whilst she grins.

“There’s a lot to do,” she protests, pushing him away as his forehead meets her.

“Nooooo,” he groans. “No, there isn’t.”

“I need to pack everything away, and we have to go over the information for tomorrow,” she reminds him, stroking her nose back and forth against his as he huffs.

“Can’t we just have fucking five minutes before we have to do the shitty stuff?” He protests.

“Or we can make the shitty stuff not so shitty and then have more to look forward to afterwards?”

“Well,” he pulls back. “I already had my own plans for this evening.”

“Oh, did you?” She smirks.

“Yes. Your bath for starters.”

“Well, how about this,” she narrows her eyes to negotiate as he offers a quick peck to distract her. “How about I go find somewhere to put the things I brought tonight,” she begins before he interrupts her.

“I cleared out drawers and closet space.”

“Oh, really? Well then that makes this all the easier,” she smiles, pecking his lips. “Then, I’ll go put it all away while you run the bath, then we go over the things for the interview and the meeting with the heads while I’m in the bath. Then afterwards we go back to our night. Hmm?” She negotiates, raising her eyebrows suggestively.

“The whole point in the bath was to relax. Not to work,” he argues, burying his head into her neck.

“Well maybe relaxing in the bath means I won’t get stressed about work,” she reasons, closing her eyes, wrapping her arms around his back.

“Fine,” he moans, pulling back. “But then it’s my plans for the rest of the night.”

“Then I’m all yours,” she declares.

He groans loudly before offering a final peck and getting up with a huff.

“Come on then,” he bitches, holding his hands out to her to pull her up. “Let’s get this over with.”

 

****

 

She settles into the large bathtub he had filled for her, more bubbles than water at this point with the aroma of grapefruit that he had spoken of earlier; easily half the bottle in here. She closes her eyes, relaxing into the boiling hot water, allowing her muscles to ease up as she shifts her legs from side to side, hearing as he shuffles in, jumping up onto the counter.

When she opens her eyes, she sees he’s sitting back against the wall, the unharmed part of his face reflected in the mirror, his battered side facing her, his tablet balanced on his thighs, concentrating diligently as his eyes dart back and forth across the words he’s reading.

“That’s new,” she notes, as he looks up to her innocently.

She nods her head towards the little black speaker plugged into the wall, wrapped around the sink and settled in front of his bare feet.

“Yeah,” he trails off, turning his attention back to the tablet. “I forgot I had it. Was given it at some award show. But I thought you might like it when you’re in here. You can just play your playlist and when you want it to change you just say Alexa, next and it’ll change the song to the next one.”

It’s then that the Alexa speaker, lights up and asks, “what do you want to play?”

“See,” he nods. “Thought it would be good in the bath. Plus, if you want to play a random song then it just plays. Alexa!” He shouts, watching it light up again. “Play Landslide Live by Fleetwood Mac.”

“Landslide live at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California 23rd May 1997 by Fleetwood Mac on Amazon Music,” the Alexa monotonously repeats back before the opening chords of the guitar begin playing as he raises an eyebrow at her.

“That’s pretty cool,” she nods.

“You never had an Alexa?”

“Your father discouraged it and I didn’t see the need anyway but it’s actually quite a useful little thing isn’t it?” She notes, still looking at it as she listens to the song.

“Alexa!” He says, “volume three.”

The volume instantly lowers so that it’s playing faintly in the background.

“The volume goes from one to ten, so you just lower it like that. And if you want it to play songs by an artist or album you just ask it to. Or you can go on your phone and hook it up to play your own playlist and shuffle it,” he tells her quietly, as he looks back down to the tablet.

“That was very thoughtful, Rome,” she smiles, running her hands through the water, coming up to take the bubbles in her hands.

“Do you listen to music in the bath?”

“Sometimes. I like to listen to classical music when I relax,” she divulges closing her eyes and leaning her head back on the bathtub.

“Oh yeah?” He asks curiously.

“Mmm,” she hums. “Apparently there are studies about classical music; that it’s supposed to help you relax and concentrate. Sometimes I listen to it when I’m trying to work on something because it’s supposed to chill you out.”

“Does it work?”

“Yeah,” she sighs, opening her eyes again, smiling at his interest. “Maybe you should give it a try.”

“Maybe I will,” he curls his lips, scrolling the screen up on the tablet.

“It sounds stupid, but I play the Fantasia album. You know the 40’s Disney movie?”

“Yeah, with the dancing flowers and the centaurs and shit?” He laughs a little. “Forgot about that. Loved it when I was a kid.”

“Yeah,” she smirks. “It has a mix of lots of well-known pieces and they are quite easy going.”

“Do you go to see orchestras and shit then? The Philharmonic at the Lincoln Center?”

“Sometimes,” she smiles, picking up bubbles with her hands and moulding it before transferring them between each hand. “When I get the time and there’s something interesting.”

He hums a little before looking back down to the tablet, huffing as she silently sculpts the bubbles.

“Okay, Alexa, pause,” he says as the song ceases. “Let’s get this over with,” he pouts. “So, the meeting tomorrow?”

“I’m not so worried about that,” she sighs. “I think the best option is just to announce it at the beginning. It’s been put at the top of the agenda already. It will be a lean cut. We’re in a relationship, we have informed the board, there will be an investigation, there will be an interview released on Wednesday, and we would appreciate your discretion until that point,” she says resolutely, lifting her leg and running the liquid across it to knead above her right knee that had been aching a little recently.

“Right,” he nods quietly.

“I don’t want to invite any commentary or opinion because to be honest, it’s none of their fucking business so,” she shrugs, lowering her leg and bringing her arms to rest on each side of the bathtub.

“And what am I supposed to do? There’s no mention of me anywhere here,” he looks up to her.

“Is there something you want to say?”

“Uhm… I don’t know,” he twists his lips. “But it’s like both of us so I feel like I should maybe say something, or it would just be awkward.”

“All right. But I think it’s very important that we remain professional,” she smirks, raising an eyebrow.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He laughs through his question.

“Well,” she chuckles, lifting her hand to stroke through the front of her hair to push the small wisps away, careful not to undo the clasp holding it all together. “I don’t think there should be jokes, especially not crass ones, nor should there be anything such as a fist pump in the air, a high five, or flipping them off smugly,” she smirks at him.

He snorts loudly, leaning the back of his head against the tiles behind him, a smirk on his lips as he looks up to the ceiling.

“So, I’ve not to be me then,” he offers a wry smile, looking back to her.

“I know you and I know that you’ll want to gloat,” she challenges with mirth.

“And why the fuck shouldn’t I? Like look at you right now,” he throws his hands up looking at her with raised eyebrows, releasing all the air in his lungs. “You looking fucking beautiful surrounded by all the fucking bubbles with your hair all curling and shit and I can’t even brag? Why can’t I fucking let them know I’ve triumphed in bagging the fucking hot top legal eagle of this generation?”

She can’t help but grin at his compliments, shifting her legs from bending to straight and bent again as she picks up a collection of bubbles with two fingers, almost embarrassed at his attentions and the thoughtfulness he had already put into this evening to accommodate her.

“Because,” she smirks. “The announcement alone with make clear that you’ve bagged me. Not to mention that they likely don’t see me the way you do so there isn’t much to brag about.”

She’s not ignorant enough to think she’s unattractive, but she doesn’t consider herself a raving beauty though she knows she’s not ugly. However, what she definitely does know is that no one on the whole world is as infatuated with her or sees her how Roman does. No one could ever be obsessed with her and everything she does as much as he, and the thought that he wants to shout that from the rooftops though flattering to her, made her cringe at how others would react to his delusion.

“Are you serious?” He questions with a scrunched-up face as she looks to him innocently. “You really don’t fucking know do you?” He asks her seriously.

“Know what?” She asks, her head tilting to the side as her fingers run up and down the edge of the bathtub.

He puffs out loudly, his eyes wide, shaking his head.

“You’re like fucking top tier,” he tries to explain, his eyes narrowing. “Like if you took a fucking poll in Waystar, you would be one of, if not thee top rated as most fuckable. And not even that, putting aside that people don’t even know the real you which would make people want you even more because of how, you know, caring you are, but then the fact you’re a fucking genius and the most with it person basically everyone knows, makes you a fucking catch.”

“Roman,” she smiles gently. “Not everyone thinks the same way you do,” she quirks an eyebrow, her lower stomach swirling with arousal.

“Maybe not, but I’m not just talking about me, Gerri. It’s pretty fucking well known. I already told you that Laird chose you as marry in Fuck, Marry, Kill,” he tells her resolutely as she shakes her head with an eyeroll. “If I went around every single fucking person in Waystar tomorrow and asked them if they would fuck you, you could guarantee it would be 100%, including women by the way. If I asked them if they would marry you, it would be a little less because some people are afraid of you, but still, you’re fucking up there.”

“Well,” she coughs a little with a smile, “while I think you’re vastly overestimating your hypothesis there, I will take it for the compliment it is, but it doesn’t negate that I would rather you kept your desire to boast on the back burner.”

“Well,” he imitates her, “while I think I’m overestimating fuck all, I still think I should at least say something so it’s coming from both of us rather than just the big boss lady.”

“Then what are you thinking?” She asks as she watches her fingers swirling, creating a pattern on the surface of the water next to her thigh through the soap.

“Maybe I can be the one to ask for some discretion until the interview is released? Like not as a joke. Sincerely,” he suggests watching the pattern she is also swirling, taking in how perfect she looks as her face and skin on her neck is a little flushed from the piping hot water, the escaped strands of hair already curling to their natural state from the humidity, the bubbles veiling the majority of her body from him. He wants to take a picture of it to always remember how stunning she looks right now, though he knows she would never allow him. He tries to burn it into his memory, though he realises this was his new normal, that he would be seeing her in this form on a regular basis and that warms his whole chest as she looks up to him with a soft smile, collecting some bubbles between her two fingers as she raises her hand back up to the side of the bathtub.

“I don’t see why not,” she offers lightly. “I just want to make sure we are direct about it. We aren’t discussing it with them like they’re our advisors. We’re informing them.”

“Surely the ones that don’t know will congratulate us though?”

“I’m sure they will, even if they have reservations. So, we just offer our thanks and move on.”

“And what’s the deal if people approach us later with questions?” He asks, looking down at the tablet again.

“No one will be approaching me with questions,” she offers a wry smile.

“Okay,” he huffs with a laugh. “When they obviously ask me questions?”

“Just stick to the interview story we’re giving the press so if it leaks, then it’s nothing new.”

“Okay, so you want to go over the interview story then?” He asks scrolling down the page to the interview notes.

“It’s all preapproved questions anyway so we shouldn’t be hit with anything out of the ordinary. We just need to make sure it isn’t rehearsed and comes across genuine.”

“Yeah, but I just want to make sure I’ve got it down and like rehearse it,” he says quietly, reading over the notes diligently.

“Okey, honey,” she sighs contentedly, leaning her head back onto the back of the bathtub, closing her eyes.

 

****

 

They recite their backstory from beginning to end several times before she is exceptionally pruned, most of the bubbles evaporated.

He helps her out of the bath, wrapping her in a towel, darting out of the bathroom with the tablet as she dries herself off to finish his preparations.

“So, what are these plans you have for tonight?” She asks lightly as she walks into the bedroom, stopping in her tracks as she looks around.

He’s standing with a smile by the bed, the room dark with candles lit around it on every surface, a large white blanket over the bed with a single white rose sitting on her pillow.

Her smile grows into a grin as she looks up to him.

“What’s all this?” She breaths, wrapping the towel firmer around her and tucking it in tightly.

“I made things rosy,” he smiles, walking towards her.

“I see,” she laughs, meeting him in the middle at the bottom of the bed, bringing her hands up to his shoulders, as he wraps his around her waist, the edge of a bottle he’d holding pressing into her.

“What’s that?” She asks as her smile drops and she tries to look around behind her back before he pulls it in front for her to see.

“Oil to give you a massage,” he shrugs, holding it up.

“A massage?” She grins, baring her teeth, her nose crinkling. “La Mer?”

“That’s the shit you use right?” He asks reticently, fearing he’s failed in his observations somehow. “I went into Bloomingdales and spoke to the woman there. She said you’d like this. Sold me a bunch of other shit she said you’d like as well. I put the rest of it in the bathroom. It’s in the cupboard to the left,” he divulges, as her arms wrap tighter around his neck, her face coming closer to his as she presses her body hard against his.

“Honey,” she begins lightly. “You didn’t have to do all this. I told you that we both have to work at making this rosy.”

“I wanted to,” he offers sincerely, his hand wrapping back around her waist to pull her even closer to him if that was possible. “It’s our first night and I wanted to make it special.”

“You don’t have to impress me,” she breathes, her lips skimming his as she offers a chaste kiss. “You’ve got me.”

“This isn’t impressing you,” he whispers back, returning her light peck. “This is how I want it to always be. I want to take care of you.”

“That’s very sweet,” she sighs, offering a more loving kiss as he returns it, exploring her mouth, squeezing her solidly to him, before she pulls away with a smile. “You want to give me a massage?” She giggles.

“Yeah,” he breathes, his pupils blackening as he offers another quick kiss as she titters through it.

“Do you know how to, or?” She asks seriously, her eyes full of levity.

“I know a little something, something,” he smirks. “Let these hands work their magic,” he groans, lowering his hands down to her derriere to knead there. “Trust me,” he murmurs into her neck as his tongue explores there. Her eyes close at the charge building up between them, at that swirling feeling returns to her stomach. “Let me worship you,” he breathes in her ear as a small gasp leaves her mouth involuntarily.

“Okay,” she chokes out, pulling back to look at him, as she notes his attempts to regulate his breathing.

“Good girl,” he growls, tapping her ass, as he pulls back from her, her eyes narrowing at the gesture. “On the bed,” he instructs, his voice suddenly back to normal.

She smiles, kneeling up onto the bed and crawling up to it, before she picks up the single rose to smell it, her grin widening.

“I told Maria to bring the other one’s with her tomorrow,” she divulges looking down at it. “I couldn’t leave them behind to wilt.”

“If you did, I would have bought you more,” he smiles, moving around to the bedside table, before unscrewing the cap from the bottle of oil.

“I have no doubt,” she smiles, setting the rose next to her before lying on her front. “Are you doing the shoulders?” She asks, regarding the pillow.

“Fuck yeah,” he scoffs. “This is about releasing her majesties tension.”

She smiles, throwing the pillow to the side, deciding she didn’t want to risk it getting covered in shit before she lies down carefully onto the blanket, ensuring nothing can reach the bed covers.

“What about Chuck? Is he coming in the move?” Roman asks lightly.

She turns around to look at him, points her head to the couch next to the doorway to the bathroom, where Chuck is happily sitting next to a large pillow.

“There he is!” Roman shouts. “My little buddy.”

“Like I would leave him behind,” she laughs, settling back down onto her arms.

“I would have you arrested for neglect and abandonment,” he pouts, reading the back of the bottle he’s holding as he rests his thigh against the bedside table.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a massage that wasn’t from a masseuse, nor from a man,” she divulges with a laugh, folding her arms under her cheek as he pours a shit load of liquid onto his hands, kneeling up onto the bed.

“You’ve never had a Roman Roy massage. It’s gonna blow your fucking mind,” he deadpans as he climbs on top of her, sitting on her backside.

She can’t help but laughing as she feels his weight on top of her.

“I also don’t think I’ve ever had a masseuse clamber on top of me,” she laughs, leaning up, looking around to him over her shoulder.

“I should hope fucking not,” he leans down to kiss her lips before she leans back down onto her arms again. “But if you did, I would definitely want to hear the story.”

She offers a chuckle as his oil clad warm hands finally make contact with her back, rubbing the liquid across the expanse, pushing her loose towel down further down until it was settles at her hips as he runs his hands randomly across her whole back spreading the oil around. She realises that at first, he has absolutely no technique, moving from up to down, then from side to side, then motioning circles from the top of her back continuously until he was circling his hands at her waist. She doesn’t mind though, didn’t expect some fucking expert deep tissue massage from him; she’s simply enjoying the contact, the feeling, and the smell of the oil and candles permeating her nostrils, creating a completely relaxing atmosphere. It’s then though that his technique becomes more coordinated, moving the liquid up to her shoulders, clasping them as he firmly rubs across the muscles from the joint of her shoulder towards her neck, the tips of his fingers brushing her clavicle as he follows the line up to the hard muscles of her neck until he rubs circles at the underside of her skull where all her tension regularly builds up.

She can hear herself groaning at the feeling. A mixture of pain, pleasure, and relief as he continues kneading there.

“Is it sore?” He asks, ceasing his actions.

“No, don’t stop,” she growls, her eyes tightly closed as she brings her arms out from under her head, to lie on the bed next to her.

He can’t help the smirk that forms on his lips, that he may actually be helping to give her some relief.

He continues the same regular pathway along her shoulders a few times more until he feels the tension begin to leave her, until he sees that the area is starting to redden before he finds a new focus. Instead this time he leaves his hands on her shoulders, pressing his thumbs next to her shoulder blades, rubbing in circular motions. He hears that delicious groan from her lips again, her hands next to her head on the bed grasping the cover as she enjoys his ministrations.

“Fuck,” she moans as he moves his dextrous hands to rub down and back up the line of her shoulder blade, stopping when he feels knots there to try and give them careful attention. Once he hears her gasps become more strained into pain, he stops immediately, rubbing his hands up and down the expanse of her back again to move around the unabsorbed lotion.

“Do you want me to crack your back?” He asks quietly.

“If you can,” she chokes out, her eyes still closed as she takes in the euphoria of this feeling.

He smiles, splaying his hands out on each side of her back, rising his hips off of her before putting all of his weight onto it on his inhale, moving his hands a little until he hears a crack and her small gasp. He exhales as he lets go, rubbing her back again before moving his hands lower to her waist, putting all his weight on her on his inhale again and letting go when he again hears a crack, before rubbing his hands across her again.

“You know,” he observes. “You have a lot of tension here. Why don’t you go for massages more often?”

“When would I get the time?” She groans out her muffled question as he rubs his hands hard up the expanse of her sides, trying to release all the tension he can.

“Well we’re going to have to change that. I might be a mediocre substitute, but you need a professional to really work on all this,” he says again, removing his weight off of her to shuffle down so he’s hovering above her thighs.

“You’re doing pretty well from where I’m lying,” she mumbles again, as he smiles happily, glad for her approval.

“Let’s get this to fuck,” he groans as he pulls the towel away, yanking it out from under her as she adjusts her weight to make it easier to pull, listening as it thuds onto the floor. He leans forward, pressing up against her back to kiss the back of her neck, whispering in her ear. “Don’t worry, I’ll pick it up later.” He offers a small Roman giggle, before sitting back up.

“I don’t give a fuck if it lies there all night, just don’t stop what you’re doing,” she says lifting her head a little so he can hear her clearly.

“Oh, it’s not over lady,” he laughs as he takes in what lies before him; the curves, the pale skin, her form practically unscathed apart from a few freckles here, a few marks there. She’s beautiful, an absolute work of art, and he can’t believe he gets to look at her like this every day now.

“I thought it wasn’t over,” she lifts her head again, attempting to look over her shoulder though she’s too tired to stretch.

“Wow,” he drones. “Look who’s impatient,” he laughs before running his hands across the bottom of her back, concentrating on the muscles at her back dimples.

“Mmm,” he observes, as he kneads them. “I love that you have dimples of Venus.”

“Why?” She groans as she bites her lip from the pleasure, the knot in her stomach not subsiding at all.

“I don’t know. It’s thought that the most beautiful women in the world have them so obviously you would. Factual proof,” he smiles continuing his attention on them.

“I’m not so—,” she starts before she gasps at a particularly hard manoeuvre. “— sure about that.”

He keeps his attention there before allowing his hands to wander to her hips, running his hands across there, forever noting the small indentation her underwear has left as he feels his need for her growing. The next part of his plan was nearly in motion and he couldn’t fucking wait.

He stops his ministrations, leaning over to pick up the oil again to fill his hands with them before moving back to his place, moving off of one thigh at first and nudging her legs apart.

“Spread your legs,” he orders softly, as she raises her head, her already pooling centre practically flooding now.

“What?” She whispers breathily, only staring at the lamp on the bedside table.

“Spread your legs,” he repeats louder. “I can’t sit on your legs if I’m going to massage them.”

She can feel her arousal increasing as she slowly moves her legs apart, her pelvis pushing deeper into the mattress, her whole sex completely exposed to him. God, she wants him to touch her there.

However, he can see it for himself, smirks as he sees her centre glistening, already waiting for him and it takes everything in his power not to just indulge. He wants to draw this out, wants to build it up, wants to give her one of the most intense experiences she’s ever had, and to do that he would need to tease her a little.

He spreads the liquid equally into his hands, putting a hand on each of her cheeks, giving the illusion he is going exactly where she thinks he is before running his hands further down her thighs, continuing past the inside of her knee and down to her calf. He goes back to his starting point and this time collects some of the liquid, starting from her ankle this time before running his hands all the way up, ensuring that he brushes the inside of her thighs this time as he hears a small gasp fall from her mouth.

“It feels so good,” she groans, her mouth wet against the covers.

The smirk is plastered to his face as he kneads the liquid against her cheeks, massaging firmly before lowering a little before completely bypassing her thighs and going directly to her left calf. He hears her loud exhale of released anticipation as he kneads from her ankle up to her inner knee a few times before moving swiftly onto her right calf, harshly kneading there too.

It’s then that he looks back up to her body, noting her deeper breathing as her whole body rises and falls, as the glistening of her centre has left a small stain on the cover. He licks his lips at the thought that this alone was turning her on, however, he is aware that he’s going to have to push this whole thing along because his own hard on is becoming a progressive issue.

He finally moves his hands to the back of her thighs rubbing progressively from the inside of her knees up to the top as his thumbs lightly brush against her centre, feeling a small jerk of her hips when he does so, her centre contracting a little.

“Fuck, Rome,” he hears her whisper as he moves all of his attention to one of her thighs, pretending to massage as he lightly brushes his fingers along the inside, looking up to her head to see if she is responding to his teasing.

He can see her breathing becoming more ragged, can hear her gasps become more frequent, and can see her hand twisting harder into the cover as he grins widely.

“You okay, babe?” He asks casually, thankful she can’t see his shit eating grin.

“Yeah. Don’t stop,” she breathes.

Not a fucking chance, he thinks.

He moves his hands to the other thigh, giving the same attention, the same teasing, the same light caresses to the inside as his attentions gain the same reaction, the twitching of her hips becoming more of a shudder.

He decides to begin truly making his intentions known as he runs his fingers gently from the inside of her knees up the inside of her thighs before gently grazing her centre, noting it’s seizing becoming more obvious, his dick now straining to be inside her, his tongue begging to lap her up.

He’s waiting for her to say something, wonders if she will, curious if she will ask for it, understanding that she is sufficiently teased but perhaps not enough to be on the brink of desperation.

He moves his hands back to her ass, rubbing across it before trailing down to her centre, noting the gasp she emits as he runs a hand deep across her, feeling the juices there as he grazes her clit before running his hand back up to her behind, spending more time there. Eventually he runs his hand back down one more time, this time touching her clit harder, rubbing there for a few seconds before pulling back and running his hands across her behind and hips.

“Rome,” she pants, her voice laced with arousal, leaning up onto her elbows. “Please, honey.”

And there it is. The recognition he needed, before he fully runs his hand through her folds, moving the juices around as she audibly gasps, her forehead falling back onto the bed, her hips pushing against his hand as the heel of his palm moves against her entrance and the pads of his fingers find her clit.

“Oh god,” she moans loudly. “Yes, honey.”

He looked up how to give a happy ending. Would be lying if he said he hadn’t had one himself. However, he had no idea how to issue one, especially to a woman. The thought of running his hands all over Gerri and finally get her off when she was fully built up enough was one that had been plaguing his mind all day. He was unsure if he could do it well enough, however, if there was one thing he had always wanted to do was to explore Gerri’s entire body. He knew as well that fucking a woman from behind was supposed to be pretty fucking great in hitting the G-spot, but that was something they hadn’t really done, always wanting to create a face to face connection, but he viewed this as a prime opportunity to give it a try.

He continues rubbing against her as her pelvis happily responds, his free hand perched on the bed next to her hip as his hard on presses against the inside of her thigh. He watches as her hand wanders down as though trying to reach him, finally finding his hand and trying to grasp it whilst he listens to her ragged breathing.

“That feel good?” He asks.

“Yes,” she pants. “Fuck yes. Keep going.”

He leans down to kiss her spine at her waist, trailing his lips upwards, never ceasing the rubbing of her clit, the pressure from the heel of his hand as he feels her movements become more desperate.

“That’s it, Gerri,” he groans between her shoulder blades. “Come for me.”

He can hear the desperation in her moans as she writhes; her whole body squirming as he increases his tempo against her, his fingers pressing harder against her as he hears her begin to scream.

“Yes, Roman. Yes, fuck. Right there,” she squeals, tightening her hand on his, pushing her chest harder into the bed, on the brink of her orgasm as she falls over the edge.

“Oh my god,” she groans, pushing her head into the bed. “Yes, fuck,” she whines as her orgasm takes over every nerve in her body, her hips gyrating harder into his hand, her centre spasming as it flushes with liquid. “Jesus Christ,” she mumbles into the mattress, her hair becoming looser within its clip as she reaches behind her head to undo it, her hair falling down as she pushes it back from her face as she lies there exhausted, whilst his hand moves slower across her centre, taking in the aftershocks before he pulls back.

“Where the fuck did you learn to do that?” She asks, as she pants, the feeling in her stomach still not dissipated, still waiting for him to fill her completely.

“How do you know it isn’t just an ingenious talent I have?” He smirks as he hovers over her body, kissing her shoulder before she perches on her elbows, leaning up to kiss him fully.

“Because you would have pulled that out the bag long before now,” she groans, nipping his lip with her teeth.

“Maybe I just discovered right now it was a talent,” he quirks an eyebrow, kissing her lips hard again, pushing his hard on up against her ass, rubbing there slightly.

“I can confirm, it is,” she groans, pushing her tongue into his mouth as he pushes her hair back from her face, framing his thighs to press up against the back of hers as he passionately wars with her tongue.

“Are you ready?” She asks in a mumble against his lips, though she knows he is, can feel it hard up against her.

He pulls back a little, gyrating his hips up against her.

“Fuck yes,” he laughs, kissing her deeply again, before she pulls back from his mouth.

“Do it now, baby,” she breathes, kissing his lips briefly though hard. “I need you inside me.”

She sounds desperate, more desperate than he’s ever heard her, and he’s not willing to deny her anything ever again.

He kneels up quickly, pushing his sweatpants down quickly, kicking them off behind him so he doesn’t have any restrictions.

“Take the t-shirt off,” she orders, looking over her shoulder. “I want to feel you.”

He groans loudly again before pulling the t-shirt off over his head and throwing it to the side before leaning forward and pressing his free dick up against her behind, pressing his chest to her back to receive the remnants of her oil on him, pushing his lips into her hair as she turns her head so he’s pressing into her neck whilst she grinds her behind up into his hard erection.

“Gerri,” he groans into her neck as his tongue attacks her, his elbows perched on either side of her chest, her hand reaching up over her shoulder to push the back of his head harder into her neck as she gasps at the sensation it’s creating in her.

She’s never felt so alive, so adored, so fucking stimulated.

“Rome, baby,” she breathes as she moves her mouth to find his, her neck taking the strain so she can run her tongue across his passionately.

When he can’t take it anymore, he pulls back, buries his head into the back of her neck as she looks forward panting, perching on her elbows. He jumps up onto his knees, looking down at her soft shining skin, her golden hair, her silky cunt as he grasps her hips, pulling her towards him to encourage her onto her knees, kissing her back again as he reaches around the front of her to push his fingers up against her nub.

“Oh, Rome, honey. Please,” she begs, still perching on her elbows.

He reaches down to his erection, tugging a few times before pushing into her cunt, feeling the familiar warm slickness that he only enjoys when within her. Within Gerri; his fucking siren, the fucking lighthouse in his storm, the love of his fucking sorry life. If he could choose anywhere to be at any given time, it would be right here; wrapped around her, his skin pressed to hers, her scent invading his nostrils, buried deep inside her, listening to her little gasps of pleasure, his balls tight from the suspense of his own release.

The huge sigh of relief he has from being inside her releases as she gasps loudly, pushing back hard against him, the angle of him within her hitting the special spot perfectly. He begins moving, one hand still wrapped around her to tease her clit, as the other holds onto her hip.

It’s different being in this angle, not being able to see her face, her reactions, her striking blue eyes, her plump lips. He can’t watch for her reactions, can’t really press his lips against hers, but this is about her; about creating her pleasure first and foremost and while he misses all the other stuff, he’s still deep inside her and that’s all he needs.

He instead focusses on moving back and forth within her, ensure that his angle hits properly so he can rub her g-spot, ensures that he continues to rub against her clit, presses his lips against her spine so she knows how much he wants her. He moves to press against her back as he listens to her gasps with each thrust, lifts his hand from her hip to knead her breast as he gyrates into her.

“You’re so fucking beautiful,” he groans into her neck as she twists her head towards him, his hand moving from her breast to push her hair away before she kisses him hard, her gasps entering his mouth with each continued thrust.

“Rome,” she groans. “I want you,” she pants against his mouth as her eyes flutter closed, the connection of their lips broken, her hips pushing harder back against him as his hips speed up at her words.

“Fuck Gerri. Yes,” he hisses as he pounds harder into her, the leverage in this position the best it’s ever been as he rails into her, his hands now perched on both hips as hers dig deeply into the mattress as she kneels in front of him.

“Fuck, yes, Roman. Harder, harder. Fuck. Give it to me,” she pants between each thrust.

He feels like he can’t hold on any longer, wants to wait for her to let go and seize around him but his dick is throbbing within her, his balls are bursting, and he can’t help but spill inside her with a loud groan, continuing his hammering into her, trying to get her over the edge before he slackens. Relief fills him when he hears that familiar scream, feels that familiar clenching in her core.

“Yes,” is all he can hear her whisper on repeat as she comes down from her orgasm, as he simply holds onto her waist, his chest pressed against her back, his forehead hard against the top of her spine as he tries to get his breath back.

He eventually pulls out of her, watching as she lies back down on her stomach panting, he more or less falling half on her as she faces him; his hands pushing her hair back from her face again so he can watch her come down.

“Well that was something,” she sighs deeply with a smile.

“Never had a happy ending?” He laughs, kissing her arm.

“I can’t say I have. Clearly I’ve been missing out,” she moves closer to him, nuzzling her nose against his temple as he takes her hint, leans up to kiss her lovingly, noting her instant response as she moves to her side, rolling onto her back so he can wrap around her, both of them pouring every ounce of affection into the kiss, into the small caresses and touches that they couldn’t possibly vocalise right now.

Their kiss slows, becoming pecks as she pushes his hair back from his forehead as he closes his eyes enjoying her attentions. She takes a moment to appreciate his boyish good looks even with his battered face, his tired brown eyes now staring into hers, running her hand down to graze against his stubble.

“You know, I think I have a crush on you,” she smiles sweetly.  

“You think?” He grins widely.

“Is it weird to have a crush on your own boyfriend?” She asks sarcastically.

“Maybe a little,” he shrugs lightly, leaning forward to lazily kiss her lips. “But I’m not really one to ask. I have a huge fucking crush on my girlfriend. Irreversible.”

She scoffs a little, moving her hand back up to push through his hair until she pulls the back of his head down to rest on her chest, her eyes closing as she feels his warmth around her, his fingers caressing the underside of her breast, their legs tangled together, whilst she runs her fingers along the soft skin of his shoulders.

“You know,” she almost whispers. “Everything you’ve done for me moving here is probably the sweetest, most thoughtful thing that’s ever been done for me in my whole life,” she divulges into the open room, her eyes still closed.

“I’d do anything for you,” he tells her honestly. “Literally anything.”

“I think I’ve just fallen even harder in love with you than I ever thought possible,” she reveals seriously as her hand absently explores his back.

“I think I fell hard long before you,” he mumbles, pressing a soft kiss to her clavicle.

“Do you know when you did?” She asks curiously. “Was it by chance when I uttered the words slime puppy?” She asks laughing as he snickers, moving his hand down to drift against her side.

“I don’t know. Don’t really think I understood what love was. All I know is that I was seeking you out. I wanted you around me all the time in the early days as well. Whenever I saw you; when you were drifting around a room, or talking to someone, or in a meeting, or at a charity event. I would just watch you,” he smiles against her skin. “I loved watching you. How you hold a pen and sometimes twist it around when you’re trying to figure something out. How you would push your hair out of your face when it would annoy you. Or when you lick your lips when you’re trying to preamble how you’re going to word something you deem delicate. How you lift your mug or a glass to your lips and hold it so delicately when you take a sip, how your cheeks would suck in when you were appreciating the taste,” he continues thinking of all the things he had noted then and still loves to watch now, before he laughs a little. “You do this thing as well, where you like invert your lips when you’re trying to hold something in. Like you’re physically trying to hold it in. I remember when dad first said he wanted to go for Pierce and Ken was like trying to feel us out and you were trying to convince him you thought it was exciting. You literally tightened your lips together and bit them like you were afraid you’d blurt it out if you didn’t,” he chuckles a little as a small smile forms on her lips, listening to his adoration. “Even how you clap your hands. You always tap your right fingers against your left palm. I just couldn’t stop watching everything.”

“I didn’t realise you were paying attention to every single little thing I did. I mean,” she scoffs. “I knew you were watching me at times, but I didn’t realise you were watching that closely.”

“I was obsessed. I wanted to know every single thing,” he reveals a little embarrassed. “Still do. Though now I don’t feel the overwhelming feeling to seek you out every minute of every day.”

“Ahh,” she laughs. “The infatuation is finally wearing off then.”

“Mmm,” he hums. “I don’t know about that. I’m still fascinated by you. But I try ration myself now, like a good boy,” he offers lightly, looking up to her through his eyelashes.

“A very good boy,” she smiles, pecking his forehead as he settled back down thinking about it.

“I think I started to fall that night in Argestes. When I came to see you, after you know,” he flickers his eyes away, staring off out to the Manhattan skyline. “You just comforted me like I’ve never been comforted before. Just stroked my hair and said It’s going to be okay,” he whispers, smiling lightly. “It’s the first time I ever believed it actually might be. And then you just let me cling onto you, letting me be broken.”

Her eyes are shining, she remembers that night well; remembers the heartbreak she had felt watching all his barriers break down so easily for the first time so openly.

“But like really love you? When did I think I was truly in love with you? Like no going back? I think it’s when you caught that rapid hard hit from Frank in Hawaii and he was out,” he deadpans as she starts laughing, her unshed tear falling as she wipes it away giggling.

“It was then and there I knew I had to marry you,” he says resolutely with a resigned shrug.

“You ass,” she chokes out through her chuckle.

“I’m kidding,” he smiles, looking up to her. “I think it was that night in London. When you we were outside the townhouse and you were so interested in everything. You looked so fucking beautiful. Then how exicted you were to see that poets house. I wanted to make you that happy for every minute of my sorry life. I just knew I needed you with me forever,” he smiles, as she chokes out a gasp, moving closer to him to kiss him solidly, as he wraps his arm around her firmly, pulling her closer whilst they pour all the emotion into their kiss.

She pulls back, pressing her forehead into his, her eyes closed.

“Turkey,” she whispers. “When I thought you were dead in the hostage situation. That’s when I realised, I was falling. That it was something deeper. I’d been hiding it from myself up until that point,” he listens intently, lying back down onto her chest as she continues. “But truly falling with no going back? I don’t know. I keep falling harder and harder. When you took care of me that night I was exhausted, and you took me to the bunker. The night in the Ritz when you didn’t answer your phone and I thought something had happened. When I started to realise you didn’t just want to fuck me and you wanted to take care of me and be with me. And our London adventure, seeing that new side to you and realising that I wanted that life with you, that I wanted in, that I didn’t want to go back to my boring life before you were a part of it. But the final nail in the coffin was Hawaii, when you had the accident.”

It had been the first time she had brought it up his accident in Hawaii. She had forbidden him from making jokes about it, had barely wanted to talk about any part of it unless it was to help him process it. She hadn’t said anything about her feelings about it, hadn’t divulged what had happened whilst he was unconscious though Frank had revealed that she was distraught, not going into any details. He knew something had happened, had seen a change in her and their relationship after that. She had been more forthcoming about her feelings, more attentive, initiating spending more time with him; not that he had any complaints, but he could never get her to talk about it. He never thought he would find out, but her bringing this up now, maybe he was.

“You want to talk about that?” He asks, leaning up on his elbow, his hand on her waist still gently caressing. “I know it affected you, babe,” he smiles. “I know something went on in that hospital.”

She remains silent for a moment, offering a quivering smile as her hand strokes his battered face gently.

“It was one of the most terrifying moments in my life, Rome,” she reveals quietly, her eyes filling with tears. “Just seeing you lying on that ramp with blood rushing from your head. I’ll never forget getting to the hospital and going straight to the bathroom and just washing your blood off my hands. It was like they had been dipped in your blood,” she whispers. “I was so afraid I was going to lose you. I couldn’t think of anything else. I’ve never felt so gut wrenched like that, not even when Baird died.”

He’s surprised by that. As much as he thought Baird was a fucking cunt that didn’t deserve her, she loved him and obviously suffered from his death.

He looks up to her, sees her trying to hold in her emotion, her blue eyes surrounded by tears as he pulls her closer to him, kissing her quickly, before pulling her onto his chest, allowing her to bury her head into his neck as he holds her.

“I was on edge in that waiting room. Even got into a fight with Frank because I was so high strung. But all I could think about was how you couldn’t leave me. How I needed you to stay and how I didn’t want to continue my life without you. I told you that you know,” she divulges, looking up to him as he regards her, pushing his hand through her hair with a small smile. “When you woke up asking if I made a big plea to beg you to stay; I did,” she reveals quietly, tears falling down her cheeks as he pushes them away with his thumb, while his own tears begin to form.

“What did you say?” He whispers, feels selfish to ask but so desperately wants to know.

“I told you all the things I still wanted to do with you. How I wanted you to come to my apartment and plan our vacation and go to Rome on my birthday.”

“We’re still doing that by the way,” he tells her adamantly, as he takes in her small smile.

“I know. But I thought at that point that we weren’t going to be able to. I was pleading for you to wake up so we could. Begged for you not to die; not to leave me because I couldn’t imagine a life without you, but you didn’t respond. I thought my heart was breaking,” she chokes out a small sob as her tears continue to flow, his emotion building up as both of his hands move to wipe her tears away as she presses firmer into his side.

“I would never leave you if I had the choice,” he tells her seriously, holding either side of her face. “I want to do everything with you. More than just go on vacation and take you to Rome on your birthday. I want to spend my whole life with you, Gerri. You’re it. You’re fucking it.”

“I know, honey. I know that now. I just don’t know why I’d held back so much until that point.”

“Yeah, there seems to be pattern there that you fall harder when you think I’m about to die,” he laughs a little, trying to inject humour into the situation.

“I know, it’s ridiculous,” she says pushing her tears away as he grins at her. “I don’t know why I think like that. I’ve fallen even harder since then though. No near death experiences. Just being with you, just how I feel around you. Everything I said to you yesterday.”

“What when you were giving me a hand job?” He teases again.

“Yes,” she rolls her eyes through her wet eyes exasperated, looking down to his chest as she trails patterns there with her finger. “No one’s made me feel like you do, and I mean that. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I can’t imagine a life without you.”

“Does that mean you’ll marry me?” He asks with a smirk.

“I meant what I said the other night, Rome,” she smiles knowingly. “Not now, but when the time is right, I’ll give you the nod and when you ask, I’ll say yes.”

He grins even wider, moving towards her quickly to kiss her hard as she laughs through it, her hand pressed against his chest.

“You’ve just basically agreed to marry me,” he mumbles against her lips, continuing to offer solid kisses.

“No,” she gasps, smiling through his kisses.

“Yes,” he smiles even wider, pulling back to look at her. “We’re basically engaged.”

“Not officially, honey. We’ve not even went one night living together. Pre-engaged.”

“Pre-engaged,” he whispers against her lips, kissing her again.

“And I still refuse to be a Roy and I’m picking my ring.”

“Pick whatever the fuck you want, call yourself whatever the fuck you want, I don’t care,” he groans, his teeth grazing her lip. “As long as I get to call you my wife at the end of it.”

“I don’t know when it’ll be, Rome,” she warns, offering a peck before pushing him back to lie down as she settles her head on his chest again.

“Just knowing it’s going to happen is enough.”

She lies there quietly, her chest relaxing against him as her high emotions dissipate a little.

“The shit with the accident in Hawaii,” he says quietly. “You think you should talk to someone about it?” He asks, caressing her bare back with his fingers.

“I think it’s pretty normal to be upset about something like that. It’s not affecting me on a daily basis,” she reasons quietly.

“But it does affect you?”

“Sometimes, when I really think about it.”

“Maybe you should speak to someone then. Maybe even Charlotte? Or the PTSD person she keeps trying to offer me?”

“Maybe,” she bites the inside of her mouth. “I’ll keep an eye on it.”

“I’m going to go see my therapist,” he announces, his lips twisting as she looks up to him. “The shit with Shiv and whatever last night. It delved into shit I never thought of and I need to, ya know, figure it out in the old noggin’.”

“I’m glad you want to figure it all out. After this whole weekend I think you really should speak to him. What did you figure out last night?”

“Con said something about how dad had deliberately pit us all against each other and picked on me so he could create this like pecking order. That it was maybe half to freak everyone else out by making an example of me, and the other half was to try and big Ken up to prepare him to take the reins in Waystar,” he reveals.

“Is this theory or fact?” She asks with a horrified expression, leaning her arms across his chest to look at him.

“I don’t know,” he puffs. “Con said it like it was fact. But if that’s fact then it’s pretty fucked up,” he laughs awkwardly.

“Oh honey,” she sighs. “I knew your dad was cruel but to deliberately do it instead of just being absent-minded,” she trails off biting her lip.

“There was this part of me that felt better about it, Gerri,” he reveals, looking down to her, running his hands through her hair as she frowns. “Like, if he did it for that reason then maybe he didn’t do it because I was a fucked up piece of shit or I was the most unloved, but just because I was the youngest son. It was like more strategic to dad than like emotional.”

“I understand that, Rome. That it might be better that it wasn’t personal to you. It doesn’t make it hurt less though,” she curls her lips, stroking across his chest.

“Shiv said this shit as well. She apologised for what she said by the way,” he digresses.

“She should have.”

“Well she did. But she like had this theory that I was maybe the strongest of us all because I was the only one who like went back for more. I was the only one who stood up to him, whereas the rest of them were just underhanded. She might have just been trying to blow smoke up my ass, but I never thought of it like that. I need to figure out if I believe it.”

“I think that’s a good way to think of it, Rome,” she tells him resolutely, nodding. “Who else really did verbally stand up to your dad? I mean sure, you were scared of him, just like we all were. There are only a few occasions that I told him what I really thought of a situation, but most of the time I told him what he wanted to hear as did everyone. But the fact that you would even joke about him to his face was something no one else did. That only you could get away with because of your charm.”

“Apart from when I got a back hander now and then for it,” he notes.

“Yeah,” she breathes. “Apart from then.”

“Well, I’m trying not to overthink it just now. Want to just enjoy this now and finally going public. I’ll make an appointment with my therapist and try and let them fucking figure it out.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” She asks gently. “Would that make it easier?”

“I don’t know,” he bites his lip.

“Well,” she ponders. “Why don’t you get an appointment for when I can make it and if on the day you want me to come with you, I can.”

“Cool,” he grins widely.

“What are you smiling at?” She laughs.

“Just you,” he offers shaking his head, the smile still present.

“Well, don’t. It’s unnerving,” she smirks back.

“How can I look at your cute face and not smile.”

“I’m hardly cute.”

“You’re the fucking cutest,” he groans, leaning forward to peck her lips.

“You’re deluded.”

“You’re a fucking siren.”

“You know of all the things you call me, I think that’s my favourite. Babe is a very very distant second.”

“Should I start addressing you as my siren in work emails?”

“Only if you want me to address you as slime puppy in them.”

“I absolutely want you to address me as slime puppy in emails,” he laughs, moving onto his side, brushing his nose against hers as she chuckles, their bodies pressed up against each other.

“My favourite is honey,” he divulges quietly, pecking her lips. “I know you call your kids honey but when you say it, it’s like I’m home. Or when you call me baby when you’re turned on. But the way you say my name. Rome. The way it draws out. Perfect,” he smiles, kissing her quickly again.

“Rome,” she whispers with a smile.

“Yeah, like that,” he closes his eyes, sighing slowly. “The best.”

They lie there for a moment until a yawn comes over her, he sympathy yawning immediately after her.

“We should get some sleep. It’s a long day tomorrow,” she reasons as he leans in to kiss her, pushing into her mouth as he languidly caresses her tongue.

“Roman,” she warns when she pulls back. “We need to sleep.”

“When you do angry Roman too. That’s favourite number four,” he smiles before pecking again.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” she smiles, pulling away from him and getting out of the bed.

“I left you out pyjamas on the sink in there,” he notes, lying back completely naked on the bed.

“You might want to think of getting some yourself,” she smirks over her shoulder, before closing the door slightly.

He gets up quickly, blowing out all the candles, before pulling back the blanket covered in oily shit and throwing it onto the couch where he sees Chuck the Chick sitting.

“Aww little Chuck!” He shouts as he walks towards his drawers to pull out a pair of boxers. “Is Chuck the Chick relegated to the couch now then? No more sleeping in your bed?” he shouts out to her.

“Unless you want relegated to the couch?” She shouts back as he hears the toilet flush and the water running.

He smiles, pulling back the bed covers and getting into the bed, lying back against the pillows.

“Roman!” He hears her shouting. “You can’t be serious with this,” she shouts, though he hears a hint of laughter in her voice.

“What are you talking about?” He asks, chuckling under his breath, completely aware of exactly what she’s talking about.

He hears a little shuffling before she appears in the doorway, leaning her hand on the door frame, giving him her best stare, her blonde hair curling around her makeup-less face, her legs completely exposed as she dons an oversized plain black t-shirt that just reaches the tops of thighs, the huge print of Kylie Minogue staring at him as he chuckles.

“Wow, you look hot,” he smirks, though he tries to hide it.

“Kylie Minogue?” She asks as she walks around the bed towards her side.

“Hey, you don’t know how long I looked for that. Ended up getting it specially made just for you. Only one in the world. Fucking couture,” he rabbles as she rolls her eyes.

“You didn’t even leave out bottoms.”

“What do you need bottoms for?” He flirts as she rolls her eyes again, reaching for the rose on the bed, smelling it with a smile before placing it on the bedside table. She moves for the lamp to turn it off, ensuring her phone is still charging, that her alarm is still on.

“Go to sleep,” she instructs, sitting on the bed. “We’re up at 5am.”

“Okay, remember we were talking about ground rules with living together,” he says into the pitched black room. “A 5am wake up is on my list that needs negotiation. I’m willing to go full proxy battle style. Presentations and all kinds of shit.”

“That’s when I wake up,” she groans, lying down as she faces away from him, whilst he lies on his back. “Are these bed sheets new?” She asks absently, feeling the softness that she only feels within her own bed.

“But I don’t need to blow dry my hair,” he groans, moving up behind her to wrap his arm around her waist, she instinctually threading her hand through his to pull their clasped hands up to her chest.

“Then see it as a snooze alarm. Go back to sleep for half an hour before you set your own alarm and need to get up,” she challenges, looking around to him and kissing his lips quickly before settling into her pillow. “Goodnight.”

“Night,” he lilts, kissing the back of her neck before he settles down behind her to go to sleep himself. “Yes, the bedsheets are new. They’re the ones you like,” he sighs into her back as she smiles sweetly.

It was a perfect new beginning.

 

Chapter Text

He had felt buzzed the next morning; hyped for the day ahead.

He couldn’t help it. He had woken up to what felt like the first day of the rest of his life at 5am when her alarm had gone off, no need for a snooze of his own, unable to go back to sleep for that half hour, instead opting to listen to her beginning her day; too wired about the realisation that this was going to be his new norm.

This would be every single fucking morning.

He simply laid back against the headboard, sighing as he listened to the shower running, then the hair dryer before she had entered the bedroom with her face flushed, her dressing gown haphazardly wrapped around her as she made her way to pick up her makeup bag.

He listened to her absently mutter about how the first thing on their list for this apartment was to get her vanity over here; about how she would need to call Maria because there was no way she was going to stand in the bathroom and do her makeup every morning.

He had simply grinned, following her into the bathroom, cheesing over her shoulder at her reflection as she pulled the various things from the bag before he had kissed her shoulder and taken a shower.

His beaming was still present when he got out, his high energy reverberating off the walls as she had watched his reflection with her eyes narrowed as she applied her eyeliner, a small smile present, though her eyes were challenging this new euphoria each time they had made eye contact.

He felt light and fuzzy, her attempt at eye rolling at his mood simply spurring him on more.

She had pulled him towards the bathroom when he had everything but his suit jacket on, citing how she had messaged the makeup artist that she used for special events who had given her some advice on how to tackle his battered face.

She had tilted his head back, gently dabbing the green concealer under his eyes, a tool usually conserved for the dark circles that years of Waystar fuckery had created under her eyes. He had surprisingly sat silent with a small smile splaying his lips, allowing her to do her work, simply concentrating on her hot breath caressing his face.

“What are you grinning at?” She asked applying the concealer next as a giggle escaped his lips.

“Nothing,” he shrugged nonchalantly with his eyes lightly closed as she continued to dab the concealer, allowing it to bake for a minute as she stepped back, leaning her hip against the counter, simply observing him.

“Mhm,” she offered sceptically as she folded her arms across her middle.

“What?” He scoffed, opening his eyes a little.

“Close your eyes and don’t touch your face at all today,” she directed with a pointed look as his eyes closed immediately at her warning. “You know smiling for no reason could be considered a little unnerving. Like that of a psychopath,” she teased.

“I’m just happy,” he had offered lightly, sitting on the closed pan, moving his head from side to side like a child; he thinks he’d be kicking his legs if they were short enough.

She couldn’t help the small smile that appeared, nor the peck to his mouth that accompanied it as he grinned even wider at the feeling of her against his lips.

She had tried to remind him of his need to wipe the grin off his face, aware that he couldn’t walk into the office with that knowing smirk, though her admonishment seemed to make no difference.

Even her cautions that this rapture would soon fade when he realised that she often got up even earlier than 5am to make phone calls to all the divisions around the globe couldn’t rain on his parade, though she was sure that this excitement would eventually wear off when her alarm woke him at 3.30am on the days it did happen.

 

He happily received her warnings as she packed her briefcase, as they were introduced to their temporary security team, and continued as they rode into work.

He was to tone down his clear excitability and wasn’t to be inappropriate were the highlights. The threats echoing what he had received in the cinema that time in London, that no one came into work to watch people be all over each other. They were to be professional. She was still his boss, they still had to command control, they still had to convince the board and every Waystar employee that this wasn’t going to affect their output and acting like a couple of teenagers wasn’t going to convince anyone in a Fortune 500.

He was up to the challenge; he’d been controlling himself for months now, but this time was different. This time it was like playing a big fucking game of edging for twelve hours a day before he could take her home and fuck her.

He was happy of the smile and kiss she gave him before they exited the car, her mask on as soon as they hit the morning air. He followed a few steps behind her dutifully as she had marched across the pavement confidently with their security team in tow, her business hat on, the no-nonsense Gerri ready to take on the day.

She was used to being surrounded by security. Logan had had them for years when things were most unstable, and as Logan’s right hand suit she had been there by his side as they had protected him. However, it was hard to adjust to the idea that she specifically was the target; that she was the one they were there to protect now. She was so used to being there by proxy; to waiting for Logan to dismiss or instruct them.

The team had split between the two of them when they had gone into their separate offices, Roman easily controlling his lot by asking them three hundred questions about themselves, though she didn’t take to it so easily. The concept of them watching her all throughout her day as she tried to carry out her work wasn’t exactly welcome, it felt awkward in fact. Though she knew it was encouraged and that they took their jobs seriously, she wasn’t used to feeling so smothered, previously being able to fly under the radar when having private conversations from office to office with whomever she wanted to without detection. She decided to dismiss them until she was ready to move out of the building again; no apparent danger within these walls unless she decided to throttle Roman for any derogatory comments towards her.

 

****

 

Walking into the meeting with the heads of departments had been ominous to say the least. However, she was fully prepared to be thoroughly cutthroat, unwilling to accept any conversation on the matter. She had noticed the pursed lips from Cyd, Frank’s raised eyebrow, and Joan’s encouraging smile, giving a small semblance of hope in what she was doing here. Roman had been a little fidgety beside her as she had started the meeting off, greeting everyone and expressing her hope that they had had a relaxing Easter weekend.

He had noticed how she had clasped her hands firmly, licking her lips nervously before she had started the announcement. Her voice however was unwavering when she had announced it, only those with a trained eye would notice her small notes of uneasiness. He couldn’t help the grin that had donned his lips when he had kept his eyes on the reactions of the heads around the table. He had considered Dana’s happy expression, Rays jaw almost hitting the table in shock, Larry’s eyes darting from side to side, whilst Tom had given an uninterested smirk; clearly Shiv had spilled the beans.

She had calmly explained the situation and when it had come about according to their edited timeline. She had disclosed their notification to the board in accordance to the clause and briefed them on the upcoming investigation into it. His turn had come about to explain the precariousness of the situation with it being released to the public in an interview tomorrow and their need for discretion until that point; his stare mainly directed at Ray who he trusted the least of them all not to go and blurt it to anyone he passed on his way back to his office.

Joan had been the first to offer her congratulations, encouraging an echoed sentiment throughout the room, some more enthusiastic than others, Cyd’s the most suggestive of all. He could hear the sincere happiness in his voice for the first time in recent history when he thanked them. He even chanced a glance at Gerri, noting her relief, the ghost of a smile before she had taken charge of the meeting again. She had moved it all swiftly onto the next point on the agenda, in no way allowing anyone to dwell on the news before turning the heat back onto each of them to discuss the updates in their departments along with their budgets; a stealthy tactic if ever he had seen one.

 

****

 

He finds himself in the car squeezed between Gerri and Karolina after lunch, a mountain of a security dude in the front seat with the driver, as they were followed by another huge black car full of the rest of their security.

He notes to his left, Karolina on her tablet, scanning through the questions that they were due to be asked in the interview, using a stylus pen to make quick notes here and there; her structured bullet points under each question being edited once more. On his right, however, he can feel the stiffness radiating off of Gerri as she pounds a response to an email agitatedly into her phone.

“So, big interview,” he sighs awkwardly, trying to start a conversation, clasping his hands together loudly, causing Gerri to flinch next to them as he frowns at her jumpiness.

“Yeah. So, I think we should go through some of the points,” Karolina says absently, scrolling quickly to the bottom of her document.

“Points,” Roman repeats, pouting his lips as he nods. “Gaming it out.”

“We’ve already been through the points,” Gerri offers curtly, still typing furiously on her phone, as he looks around to her to take in her expression, surprised when he sees anger.

However, when her eyes flick up to meet his briefly, he sees something else, though he’s not quite sure what.

“No,” Karolina drones, looking around to them apprehensively. “Not the interview answers. We just need to go through some standard interview technique.”

“We’ve done badillions of interviews, Karolina,” Roman laughs. “Same old bullshit. Don’t use a naughty word. Don’t say something disparaging about Gaystar. Don’t offer fellatio. Or cunnilingus. Feminism and all that,” he laughs looking around to both of them as he notes two deadpan expressions. “Come on. You’re talking to Hollywood’s most beloved moron. They couldn’t get enough of me on the red carpets.”

“Yeah, I get that, but you guys haven’t had 411 on how to act as a couple,” Karolina ventures delicately. “We have to go through it. Interactions. Body language. Things like that.”

“We need prep for that?” He asks confused, looking around to Gerri, who’s finally sent away the email and turning her attention to them with a raised eyebrow.

“I was married for several years. I know how to act in a couple,” Gerri laughs sarcastically.

“With respect, PR and interviews for couples are very different,” Karolina starts, looking back to her tablet to read out her point, as Roman snorts a little, looking around to Gerri who rolls her eyes, looking out the window. “There’s a lot to consider. Such as both of you being balanced in the time you talk. One person not talking more than the other, so you give off that your relationship is equal.”

“She means you,” Gerri interrupts pointedly, nudging him as he snickers.

“Roman if you talk too much, it would seem that Gerri is nervous and not competent, perhaps unfit to be a CEO,” Karolina tries to explain as Roman grimaces. “Whereas, Gerri if you take the lead then it comes across that you’re domineering and the one in charge of the relationship, making it seem that Roman is essentially… being controlled.”

“I mean,” he grins, looking around to Gerri who rolls her eyes for good measure.

“Shut up and listen,” Gerri admonishes bluntly, though he snickers in response.

“So, just make sure the conversation is equal. You can either do Roman as the joker, Gerri as the eye rolling straight man. Or Gerri, give him a little banter back. Have a bit of fun with it, going back and forth between you,” Karolina advises as they both nod looking towards Karolina’s tablet. “The main objective here is to sell that you’re in a healthy, loving relationship so the repertoire between you has to be fun, courteous, and most importantly genuine.”

“Our relationship is genuine,” Roman defends with a frown, looking to Karolina who sighs, brushing the hair back from her face.

“There’s going to be a lot of doubters,” Karolina tries to deliver delicately. “You both knew that. But the more you can sell that your relationship is legitimate, the less doubters and backlash you’re going to receive.”

Gerri looks out to the window, biting the inside of her mouth, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. She can feel her heartbeat increasing, the air struggling to get into her lungs, as she tries to inhale deeply to calm herself down. Roman notices instantly, struggling to see her face, her eyes pressed to the passing buildings. He moves to take her hand, threading their fingers together, noting her warm hand reacting immediately as he feels her grip tighten against his, her eyes still facing outside.

“And that’s another thing,” Karolina hazards, looking down at their hands. “Body language. Intimacy.”

That gets Gerri’s attention as she looks around to Karolina who nods towards their joined hands again for her benefit, Gerri retracting immediately as she fumbles with what to do now, deciding to pick up her phone from her lap just to give her something to do; much to Roman’s dismay.

“No,” Karolina says gently. “Intimacy is a good thing to a point. People want to see that.”

“What?” Gerri breathes as Roman grins widely at her.

“To an extent obviously,” Karolina lolls her head from side to side before looking back down to her tablet to brief them. “No kissing. It always seems awkward and staged when you’re in an interview or in front of paparazzi. The only time you should ever be caught kissing is when it’s candid and you didn’t know someone was watching or taking the photo. That’s just obvious. You’re still trying to come across as the proficient CEO and COO of a Fortune 500 company here.”

“Not even on the cheek?” Roman asks with a smile. “A little peck,” he says trying to tease.

“What reason would you have to kiss me on the cheek?” Gerri asks with her eyebrows furrowed.

“I don’t know,” he smiles. “Because I feel like it.”

“No,” Karolina confirms. “No kissing. You can portray your intimacy through other mediums. Holding hands when the other needs comfort or you’re saying something kind about the other person. A light tap on the leg or arm when you’re joking around. Things like that.”

“So, no head locks,” Roman nods, as Gerri shakes her head. “Got it.”

“The best way to go about it is thinking of politicians and how they act with spouses. They’re your thought process here. You want to come across as absolute professionals but also people who are in a happy, caring, authentic relationship in their personal time.”

“So, like, exactly what we are,” Roman snorts.

“What’s the style of the whole thing anyway?” Gerri asks curiously, putting her phone back down on her lap. “There isn’t a gaudy photoshoot and everything like last time, is there?”

“No. I think they’re going for more informal interview with candid photos,” Karolina confirms.

“Unusual for Vanity Fair,” Roman notes, looking forward out of the front windscreen. “I got an Annie Leibovitz photoshoot a few years ago. She was a groovy chick. And then last year I did one of those videos where the questions just got increasingly personal. Was actually fucking funny.”

“Well, they will be recording the whole thing, but what footage will be published is subject to approval, of course. Then it’ll go on their website, on Twitter, on Instagram,” Karolina trails off before Gerri interrupts her.

“A video?” Gerri gulps, the feeling of her throat constricting becoming more apparent.

“You’ve done videos before. You did DC for fuck sake and that was huge,” Roman laughs. “This is a piece of cake in comparison.”

But it wasn’t a piece of cake to Gerri. She would do a deposition in DC any day again over this. She wasn’t used to a public life, wasn’t used to the attention that being in the limelight offered. She’ll never forget how uncomfortable she felt when her photo had come up on the news programme with Weissel, putting her face into the stratosphere. The thought of being so easily identifiable alone had made her cringe inwardly, shift awkwardly in her seat that day, surrounded by her peers who tried not to turn their attention to her as she had heard the cheers of her name in the room next door from the Roy brood.

The prospect of the deposition in DC had been daunting enough, Tom making it no better with his perpetual anxiety, let alone a televised inquisition as she would have to attempt to dart their questions. However, she had been in her own world there; a world she expertly understood and could manoeuvre. She knew every law, every trick, every word she had to spill out of her mouth to successfully pull it off. It was her job to know, to advise, to engage in it in a boardroom; it had just been a new prospect doing it so publicly.

She understood that CEO involved being a public persona and she had taken that in her stride because again she knew what she was talking about. She knew the industry inside out and could head off any questions any moron could possible fire at her, but the delving into her personal life was something that would take a little bit longer to adapt to.

The most uncomfortable she had been thus far was with the Forbes interview and photoshoot even though it had gone well. Talking about herself personally had been a new steppingstone in this journey into becoming a public figure. She had processed it as her life story being factual. She was simply telling people her history of how she had got to current situation; more or less dictating a résumé to the world which was an easy task in itself.

This interview with Roman, however, was the biggest challenge she had faced thus far.

The prospect of having to sit in a room with an interviewer, being recorded, as she talked about her feelings was something that quite frankly made her internally and externally cringe. She had gone through too many years of deliberately publicly muting her personal feelings, any intimacy, her marriage, her personal life; only revealing the expected fundamentals when necessary. It was something that had been engrained in her for over thirty years; even the prospect of sharing a chaste kiss on the subway with Roman was something she had been bashful about. She had only just started being so open with Roman in her feelings a few months ago and now she was expected to openly declare it to the world. She couldn’t imagine what she would think if she were the one scrolling through her social media, coming across the video, seeing a woman in her 60’s publicly declaring her devotion for a man twenty years her junior. She wonders if she would be as judgmental and sceptical as she imagines most others are going to be, mainly the viewers of the very channels she was now in control of; or if her proclivity towards feminism would have made her give a hearty good for her instead. Hindsight was not her friend in this moment because she was sure the reason she was siding with feminism and anti-ageism is because it was her; because she knows her relationship was genuine, she knows this wasn’t planned, she knows there was no subterfuge in this situation.

She wonders if this whole thing is a mistake. If they should just have allowed it to happen naturally instead of making a public statement. She wonders if she should have just offered confirmation on the situation on the weak statement from the other day and let the narrative become whatever it wanted to. She can’t help but feel like she’s walking into the lion’s den, the ominous sickness churning in her stomach becoming overwhelming, her fight or flight kicking in with no fucking clue which way she was going to go.

“Uhm…,” Gerri chokes out trying to figure out how she’s going to word her backtracking. “Why are we going with Vanity Fair anyway? It’s not really their style is it… a story about a CEO that no one really knows.”

“Don’t be so modest,” Karolina smiles. “Your approval ratings and popularity have been astronomical since the Forbes interview. You’re known pretty widely in a lot of circles now. But mainly, it’s Roman,” she smirks as Roman adjusts his tie smugly.

“This face,” he sighs with a smile. “They just can’t resist it.”

“Roman has always had a pretty high profile since all his bullshit when he was a kid,” Karolina starts as Roman interrupts.

“Hey! No fair!”

“But,” Karolina continues. “He made a lot of big waves in Hollywood when he was there. He interviews well and everyone likes his quirky personality. Not to mention he made an impression with a lot of big A-listers out there, so it’s likely due to him. Then there were always the gossip stories for those years in the noughties until maybe five years ago about who he was dating and who was going to tame him since he fired through a series of girls. An eligible bachelor if you want to call him that. I’m surprised they didn’t offer the cover if I’m honest.”

“Next time,” he winks at Gerri as she feels the bile rising up to her mouth, her face becoming pale as she realises, she’s likely not going to get out of this.

“It’s just, maybe they’re not the right media outlet we should be looking at,” Gerri tries to reason. “We really should have used one of our own so we could really control the narrative. Not to mention, Vanity Fair are pretty progressive and liberal, aren’t they? So, it could result in a backlash from our readers and viewers if we’re seen to be associating with them.”

“What’re you talking about?” Roman asks gently, frowning. “We’re on our way there.”

“Gerri, we’ve signed a contract with them,” Karolina laughs a little awkwardly. “You approved them yourself as the best option because their progressive perspective on the nature of your relationship would draw the most popularity, not to mention drawing a whole new audience.”

“I know,” Gerri clears her throat. “It’s just, maybe there was a certain amount of oversight that we missed in disregarding that.”

Roman can’t help but feel the hurt surging within in him as he listens to her, realising that she’s trying to back out just as they are about to cross the finishing line.

“Gerri, the reality is that if we pull out now, they’re going to run the story anyway,” Karolina reasons. “However, the difference is that they’ll put whatever edge on it that they want and cancelling an interview an hour before it’s about to take place when they’ve moved it up to accommodate our predicament isn’t going to be the best way to get a positive spin on your announcement. The rumours are already circling from the other day, it’s a matter of time until it fully breaks, and someone talks,” Karolina explains skilfully, as Gerri sighs, biting her lip again as she looks out the window. She closes her eyes tightly, taking a deep breath in as the car begins to slow down outside their destination.

Roman’s frown is still evident as he takes Gerri’s hand again, hers squeezing even tighter this time as she concentrates solely on the feeling of his skin against hers.

“Hey,” he says gently, but she doesn’t move. “You okay?”

She exhales slowly through her clenched teeth, her eyes finally open as she plasters a smile on her face, looking around to him, offering a nod.

“Yeah. It’s fine,” she tries to offer confidently.

“We good?” Karolina asks, her hand on the door handle as the security from the car behind them flood around their car.

Roman raises his eyebrows at Gerri, an unspoken reiteration of Karolina’s question. He can see that turmoil in her eyes again, her glasses emphasising the icy blue as the small line forms between her eyebrows as she knits them together; the one that only appears when she’s stressed the fuck out.

“Yeah,” Gerri says offering a small smile as she reaches quickly for the door handle. “Let’s get this over with,” she huffs letting go of his hand and pushing her shoulders back before stepping out of the car.

 

****

 

Gerri finds herself in another makeup chair, facing a mirror covered in bulbs as they highlight every little line on her face that she didn’t even know she had until now. Luckily the girl doing her makeup had just finished, away to find the hair stylist to touch up her hair, giving her time to look through her emails for anything that she may have missed; a welcome distraction from the impending rack she was about to be tortured on.

She couldn’t stop her mind from reeling; ruminating how ridiculous she is going to look as she sits next to Roman on the small couch she had seen on the set, trying to convince the population of the world that she is genuinely in love with this young man. She can’t help considering how foolish and weak she’s going to be perceived; how they are going to paint her as a tragic sexless older woman who has fallen at the whim of Roman Roy, the slick talking suave bachelor who was taking advantage of her position as CEO. It doesn’t matter that she knows it’s not true, just the notion that the infallible image she had spent her whole adult life protecting and building up, could be instantaneously corrupted just by being a sappy schoolgirl on video for the world to see was not only distressing but unjust. The knowledge that announcing her happiness could be her demise was just unwarranted, bordering cruel, and yet she knew she had to do it even though she could lose everything for doing so.

The Board still hadn’t announced her as a permanent CEO. They could easily change their minds upon bad press dependent on how scathing it became; on reflection their delay in announcing was probably the usual corporate bullshit that went on behind closed door as they waited for the feedback before making their final decision. She felt out of control, like there was nothing she could do to sway the situation. She would need to find the correct balance between coming across as genuinely loving, but not too immature, not too love struck. She had to be dominant in the relationship to show that she wielded power, but not too much to ensure she didn’t come across as domineering. She would need to show that she could still fulfil the role of CEO, but not dedicated to it so much that her relationship was secondary. The balance had to be just right, and she didn’t know if she could pull it off. The thought of not pulling it off and losing the position she had longed for just as she was just about to hit home was too devastating to even consider. But she knew that if it became a choice; that if it was Roman or Waystar then the choice was simple. But she also knew that she wanted both, and there should be no reason she shouldn’t have it all. She can feel the fury mixing in with her anxiety, her frustration of being judged for something so trivial, at the mercy of the moronic public as her jury and it makes her want to do something drastic. The thought of going on camera today and announce that she doesn’t give one fuck if they approved or not was inviting; simply explaining that they were happy, and she was still going to be the efficient filing cabinet she has always been no matter what. But she knows she can’t and just that makes her even more incensed.

The emails end up not being a distraction at all. Instead her attention is drawn to Roman in his own makeup chair several feet away from her, whispering and giggling with his young makeup artist whom, Gerri is quite certain, is shamelessly flirting with him. She can feel the venom within her reaching its peak. How he can even sit there so smugly comfortable with the prospect of not reaching the right balance in this interview is beyond her. Both of their behaviour in this video was being judged. Both of their jobs could be riding on the next half an hour of their life and there he was shamelessly flirting and joking with a young girl. She knows that Roman was often a flirtatious person but him outwardly doing so in front of her, with a stranger who may not know that, in such a public forum in front of everyone was in her opinion quite frankly a complete lack of loyalty and respect.

“Roman,” she finds herself barking as he looks around to her with innocent eyes, the smile slowly leaving his lips when he sees her expression. She feels bad for him, knows this isn’t his fault but she can’t stop herself. “Don’t you think you should be doing some work? Preparing yourself or something? Looking at emails. We still have a lot to do,” she bites angrily.

“What?” He laughs exasperated, flickering his eyes away from her awkwardly for a moment as Gerri takes a bitter deep breath in at his mocking of her suggestion. “I’m still getting my makeup done. I can’t look at my emails,” he defends airily. “This ugly mug clearly needs more attention than yours,” he tries to laugh off, as his makeup artist giggles along with him, infuriating Gerri even more.

“Well maybe if you weren’t distracting the girl, she would be finished much quicker so we could get this over with and get back to the office sooner,” she challenges, pointing her eyes to the girl also.

He frowns, feeling embarrassed as he  looks to the makeup artist, noting her expression was thoroughly scolded as she awkwardly pressed her makeup brush into the compact she was holding silently.

“Hey,” he smiles gently at the makeup artist. “Could you give us a minute?”

The girl nods quietly, bowing her head as she walks away from them.

“Thanks,” he says as he hops off his chair, walking slowly towards Gerri who refuses to look at him, pretending not to notice his approach as she scrolls through an email.

“What’s wrong?” He whispers gently, leaning on the arm of her chair, his mouth close to her ear, his desire to press a kiss to her neck pretty tempting though he doesn’t.

“What’s wrong,” she begins, her voice low and full of bitterness, turning to look at him challengingly as he retracts his head a little, “is that you aren’t taking this seriously. This isn’t a playground. It’s work,” she hisses, her eyes strained, her heart beating rapidly.

“Are you fucking serious?” He asks taken aback, standing up fully now, his eyes narrowing as he regards her. “So, I’m not allowed to fucking joke around while I’m getting makeup caked on?”

“Lower your voice,” she warns, looking around to the room to see if anyone had heard him.

He groans, putting all his weight back onto the arm of her chair again as he hunches over, looking at the floor, trying to figure out what the fuck to do here. He thinks back to how she was in the car, adding that to her mood right now, and he knows this isn’t going to get better, knows that she isn’t going to talk about it here with him either.

“Let’s go,” he orders on an inhale, standing up fully and looking to her expectantly, gesturing for her to get up out of the chair.

“What?” She scoffs quietly with raised eyebrows.

“Let’s go do this somewhere else then,” he confirms his meaning as his own anger rises.

“I’m not going somewhere else to have an argument with you,” she bites back.

“Oh yeah?” He challenges. “You want to do it here?” He asks holding his arms out to the room as people start watching him, Karolina’s eyes bulging. “Cause we can do this right here.”

“For fuck sake,” Gerri groans, getting up out of the seat and storming across the room, holding her hand out to the security to stay put.

“We’ll be right back,” he smiles to Karolina and then the makeup artist across the room as she simply nods in return, everyone else looking to the confused young girl.

 

****

 

He finds an accessible toilet in the middle of the corridor, the rooms around it too suspect with potential CCTV, this was the only safe spot he could think of.

He opens the door for her, sardonically gesturing for her to enter first, before following her in and flicking the door locked. He finds her standing with her arms crossed across her middle, her stare angrily pointed in his direction, obviously gearing up for a fight .

He doesn’t know why she’s the one who’s fuming when he’s the one who’s just been humiliated in a room full of strangers.

“What’s the fucking issue?” He starts off, throwing his hands up as she raises an eyebrow, offering a scoff from across the room, her hip pressed against the sink.

“My issue?” She fires back bitterly. “Where the fuck do you get off threatening me in there with blackmail?”

“Threatening you?”

“Yeah,” she accuses breathily. “Forcing me in here or you’ll go fucking King Kong in front of everyone. Don’t try that with me Roman.”

“ME?” he says exasperated, still rooted to the spot. “You’re the one who was going off on me! Where the fuck do you get off?!”

“Roman, don’t try and turn this around on me because you decided to fuck around instead of trying to get focussed,” she bites, the anger within her not dissipating in the slightest.

“Fuck around?” He repeats in disbelief, raising his voice, his head pecking towards her. “I wasn’t fucking around at all. You fucking embarrassed me in there!”

“Embarrassed you?” She challenges with a mocking laugh as he holds his point towards the door.

“Yeah,” he splutters. “Fucking scolding me like I was a school kid who got caught talking to my buddy when I was meant to be doing the assigned work.”

“You were doing more than talking,” she accuses, her eyes narrowing with a nod.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” He shouts, his eyes bulging as he tries to figure out the fucking enigma that her mind was.

“If anyone should be embarrassed here, it’s me,” she challenges. “We’re here for an interview about our relationship, Roman, and you decide that’s a good time to start flirting with that girl. How the fuck is that going to come across when we’re trying to convince people this is legitimate.”

“Flirting?!” He shouts, his voice rising several octaves. “I wasn’t fucking flirting!”

“That’s not how it seemed from where I was sitting nor anyone else for that matter,” she mumbles with a pout, looking down at the floor, her foot trailing along the edge of a tile.

“I don’t give a fuck how it looks! I wasn’t flirting!”

“Oh yeah?” She raises her head as her eyes become sceptical again. “Well you should give a fuck how it looks! Little whispers and giggles. Fucking nauseating. Anyone would deduce from that you were flirting and it’s not the image we’re trying to achieve here.”

She can hear the clinical tone in her accusations, the use of it likely frustrating him more than anything. Convincing him that it isn’t due to her hurt feelings nor stress but due to their image was a tactical ploy to keep herself protected, one that she had expertly used on Baird about his trysts for too many years.

“When was I whispering?” He scowls, trying to think of what the fuck she’s talking about. “You mean about the bruises?”

“What?” She fumes exasperated.

“My bruises,” he reaffirms. “I was whispering to tell her that I’d been beaten up and had a fucked up face. Something I clearly didn’t want the whole fucking room to hear. I was telling her not to clean off the existing makeup and that she was going to have to cake it on to mask it more,” he explains.

She can feel the relief washing over her, though her stubbornness won’t let her concede, her need to win this argument vital for her not to be perceived as a certifiable whack job.

“You were giggling like schoolgirls, Roman,” she accuses.

“Oh my god!” He groans, burying his face in his hands before looking back up to her. “I made a fucking joke about being in a fight because I didn’t want to admit to her it was my dad that did it!”

She feels even more asinine now, realises that she had probably picked the whole thing up wrong. However, the weakness that admitting that would reveal the chink in her armour, something she was never going to allow; her tough exterior therefore not crumbling in the slightest.

She simply gives a shrug, exhaling lightly before inverting her lips and looking up to his wild eyes, his ruffled hair.

“You don’t fucking believe me, do you?” He puffs incredulously, spinning on the spot, nowhere to pace or escape to.

“Even if you weren’t flirting with her, she was with you,” she weakly backtracks, her arms still tightly folded, pressing hard into her stomach. His serious tone is the confirmation she needs that she had definitely made presumptions in this circumstance, but she refuses to admit that outright so she would have to spin it. She had her pride if nothing else.

“Even if you did say that,” she begins, “it’s about how it’s perceived to everyone around us. We don’t need rumours circulating from the people in this building that on the day Roman Roy the bachelor of America came to announce his relationship, he was flirting with a younger woman. It’s disrespectful and paints you as an asshole and me as a victim. We’re in a hard-enough situation here without having to make it more challenging.”

“I wasn’t fucking—,” he barks before stopping himself, groaning loudly, and crouching down to the floor with his back pressed against the wall, his hands tugging at his hair. “What the fuck is going on, Gerri?” He asks, looking up her. “You were trying to back out of this in the car as well. What’s the fucking deal?”

She doesn’t expect him to have the initiative to stop being defensive, halting her attempts to maintain control, instead reversing this on her, capsizing her stance, and derailing her argument. Baird never did this. She was going to have to up the ante.

“I wasn’t trying to back out. I was trying to analyse whether this actually was the best platform to reveal this. It’s my job to do that. To make the correct moves and evade car crashes. Someone has to be the one to think of that,” she explains resolutely, unfolding her arms, pressing her hands against the rim of the sink behind her on each side of her hips.

He simply watches her, notices the wavering in her eyes, how the anger spouting from her lips didn’t match the rest of her expression.

“Bullshit,” he spits, calling her out, standing up slowly. “What’s the real deal here? What’s happening?”

She’s astounded that he’s seen through her again. Baird had never exposed her. Is this how it was now? Was she now so transparent? Did she no longer have the ability to hide anything from him? Had they reached that point where he could interpret her so well that attempts to bend the truth were now futile.  

“That’s the real deal,” she lies, pushing off the sink to stand tall, straightening her posture, her hands firm on her hips as she tries to heighten herself to posture over him.

He watches her closely, notices her tactics; sees through her attempts to hide whatever the fuck it is she’s hiding. He wonders if his previous fleeting thought that she was getting cold feet going public with him was true, now that they were actually about to do it. He doesn’t understand though. She had told him that she had been frustrated living in secret, had seemed to be really looking forward to announcing. He can’t comprehend what’s happening, but he knows that whatever it was, they couldn’t go ahead with this. Whether it was because she didn’t want to or not, both of them like this in an interview wasn’t going to convince anyone of anything. She was closed off and he was growing progressively disheartened; an infusion that could only end in catastrophe.

“Fine,” he sighs defeated. “But just know that I know you’re talking shit and you were the one that had us promise never to lie to one another,” he reminds her savagely. “We can just call the whole interview off. It’s bound to be a fucking disaster if this is how it’s going to be anyway. Let them spin whatever fucking story they want. I don’t give a fuck,” he tells her resigned, as he notices her frown, turning quickly to unlock the door, pulling it open.

“Wait,” she calls when he has a footstep over the threshold.

He was right; she had made them promise to be honest with one another, to keep communication open even if it was about her insecurities that she absolutely didn’t want to talk about.

He turns around to look at her with wide vigilant eyes, raised anticipative eyebrows as he enters back into the toilet, noticing her body sagging back against the sink.

“Close the door,” she says quietly, as he follows her direction, locking the door again for good measure.

He stands at a distance, his arms rigidly folded this time, his stance wide as he stares at her tenaciously, waiting for an explanation.

She didn’t want to do this, she didn’t want to admit defeat, admit her shortcomings, admit her vulnerability, admit anything. But here he was, actively watching her, interested in what was wrong, willing her to reveal it, and it’s something she realises she’s never really been on the receiving end of before. Apparently, she’s surprised to discover, this was what being in a genuine, legitimate relationship was.

“It’s not you,” she admits quietly, bringing her hands up to her chest to fiddle with her nails so she doesn’t have to look him in the eye.

“It seems like it might fucking be me, Gerri,” he says irately. “You promised me that if you wanted to end this you would just fucking be honest about it and put a stop to it immediately. That should apply to going public too. Stop keeping me in the dark.”

She looks up to him, her eyes wide and nervous, her heart thudding in her chest as she takes in his twisted lips, his eyes a mixture of anger and uncertainty.

“It’s not you, Rome,” she almost whispers, choking on her words.

He lets out a groan, spinning on the spot again as he looks up to the ceiling, trying to comprehend that she actually is confirming that she is apprehensive about going public.

“So, you want to stay a fucking secret?” He groans, tightening his fists, swinging his arms just to give him something to do. “Great. Fucking great. Then how the fuck are we going to explain you living in my fucking apartment or is that fucked now too?”

“No, I’m not saying that,” she tries to back track softly.

“Then what the fuck are you trying to say?” He shouts, turning around to look at her heatedly. “Do you want this or not?!”

“Of course, I want this!” She shouts back irritated.

“Do you want to go public?” He fires immediately, holding his arms up in the air, his eyes bulging. “Do you want to keep living with me?”

“I do, I just—,” she sighs, looking for the right words, her angst rising.  

“You just fucking what?!”

“I’m just fucking scared!” She shouts as his whole expression changes to complete astonishment; the admission was something he has never heard from her. He looks up into her eyes and he realises that’s what had been in her eyes in the car – outright fear, and he feels like a complete fucking moron for not identifying it earlier.

He listens to her ragged breathing before she groans, watches her putting her head in her hands; this was serious, that he knows, because Gerri didn’t admit anything like this ever.

“You’re scared?” He whispers, moving closer to her. “What are you scared of?”

“Of this,” she barks. “This fucking interview. What will happen if I fuck it up.”

“You’re not going to fuck it up,” he assures her, moving next to her, his hand settling on her shoulder before running down her arm as she looks up to him.

“Roman,” she groans. “You heard Karolina. Be genuinely in love, sell it, but not so love struck so people don’t think you’re a fucking tragic old woman who’s been caught in a younger man’s fucking web of deceit.”

He can’t help but blurt out a laugh.

“Karolina didn’t say that,” he reminds her softly through a smile.

“No, but that’s what they’ll think,” she defends. “If I’m too fucking gooey eyed, then I look like a fucking incompetent who’s been led astray by a younger man’s dick. If I don’t look at least a little in love, then it’s disingenuous. If I don’t talk enough, then I look weak and incapable of doing my job because I’m not conversational. If I talk too much, I look like a domineering tyrant who has you whipped. How the fuck do you win with those rules? How the fuck are you not worried?” She challenges fiercely as he pushes her hair behind her ear, pulls her silently into a hug, her forehead slamming onto his collarbone with a puff.

“Can you, you know, breathe for a fucking second?” He giggles in her ear, wrapping his arms securely around her shoulders.

“It’s not fucking funny, Roman,” she mumbles, her arms wrapping around his waist. “If we get bad feedback they could rule badly on the investigation into our relationship. They could give CEO to someone else. There’s so much riding on this,” she huffs, tightening her grasp around his back as his hand threads through her hair on the back of her head, moving down to massage her neck at the base of her skull.

“It’s going to be okay,” he whispers, moving to kiss above her ear.

She grunts loudly, pulling back to look into his eyes.

“Is that it? It’s going to be okay?” She scoffs.

“I mean, it is,” he shrugs, placing his hands on her shoulders, running them up towards her neck to settle under her ears. “They’re going to give you CEO whether you’re with me or not. They aren’t choosing you based on whether you’re with me; they’re going off all the work you’ve put into that fucking company since nineteen canteen, and how you can take it forward.”

“A huge part of being CEO is the visuals, Rome,” she argues weakly.

“Yeah, but the board already know we’re together. They won’t just fuck it all because you fucking did an interview and were a bit fucking mushy. And no one even said you need to be fucking mushy.”

“I’m just not used to this,” she groans, burying her head into his neck as he wraps his arms back around her shoulders again. “I can’t fucking declare my feelings to the world. It’s not me. It’s cringeworthy. It’s ridiculous and pathetic.”

He laughs a little again, she groaning at the notion that it’s at her.

“Then let me take the lead,” he offers assuredly. “I’ll be the creepy loser who’s head over heels and you can bring me back to earth. Let me crack the jokes and you can do whatever you feel comfortable with. Join in whenever you want.”

“Roman, you can’t come across that way either,” she mumbles with her eyes closed, inhaling his cologne, feeling the warmth of him surrounding her, his fingers tickling her neck.

“Like fuck I can’t. Be realistic. Some couples have someone who’s more open than the other. Some couples have one who takes the lead. So, I’ll take the emotiony ones and you take the Waystar ones. Simple. No one would believe that you were a moron who gave in to some dick, Gerri. No one would think that. Especially not to my puny dick,” he jokes, leaning down to peck her neck as she considers his words.

“I’m just so frustrated that we need to go through all this,” she moans. “Whether I can do my job and who I’m in a relationship with are two different fucking entities. It’s no one’s fucking business.”

“Then let’s say that,” he reasons, pulling back to look in her eyes, pushing her hair out of her face. “That nothing has changed in how we work now we’re together. Private life and personal life separate from each other. You’re allowed to love someone, you know. Being a legal eagle doesn’t mean you have to be a fucking nun!”

“I don’t think we should say that per se,” she smirks. “The private and personal life separation will come up when we discuss how it affects Waystar anyway. I just don’t want to look pathetic. I don’t want my reputation as a legal eagle, as you put it, to be tarnished.”

“Are you kidding? Do you know who you’re dating? Girls will line the streets to comfort each other in their misery when they find out I’m off the market. The only hate mail you’re going to be getting is pure jealousy. If anything, this just raises your street cred. Surges it. Like into the fucking stratosphere.”

“I’m being serious, Rome,” she snickers through her admonishment.

“Gerri,” he sighs, pecking her lips gently before looking into her blue eyes. “No one is going to think anything shitty about you. Your reputation won’t be fucking ruined. They’re going to think you’re a fucking human being with feelings. You don’t need to go and spill your guts out. Just be yourself. Your cute little self,” he jokes, pecking her lips again. “They’ll fucking fall in love with you. I promise. And I’ll take the heat for most of it. I’ll crack the jokes. Get the attention on me. They love me anyway. And even if they don’t go for it. Fuck em’. A wise Molewoman once said we love each other. Anyone who says that’s fucked up doesn’t understand love and that’s a fact.

She rolls her eyes, laughing a little.

“The way I see it,” he reasons. “We have final control over the footage that goes up anyway, right?” He asks, as she confirms with a nod. “So, we concentrate on what we’re trying to convey here and if we come across badly then we just pick a shitty part of the footage that it’s not so bad,” he shrugs, as she bites her lip considering. “Control the optics. Fuck the system. Next stop world domination. I’m thinking we start with Russia,” he jokes as she offers a small smile, considering his very valid point about the video.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbles, fixing his tie as she concentrates on it. “For earlier. About the girl.”

“I wasn’t flirting with her,” he repeats adamantly.

“I know,” she murmurs. “She was with you though.”

“I don’t think she was,” he laughs offering a kiss to her bowed head. “But even if she was, she would need to take the old hike because I’m fucking devoted to a certain stone-cold killer bitch anyway. Like completely fucked for anyone else,” he smiles as she looks up to him, staring into his amused brown eyes.

“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. I didn’t mean to. I was just frustrated at how calm you were and how nerved up I was getting,” she huffs, pressing her forehead against his.

“I’ll take your apology into consideration,” he whispers as she rolls her eyes, pulling her forehead away from his, offering a quirked eyebrow.

“Me conceding and offering two apologies in a row is something you should consider will likely never happen again. It’d take the win,” she challenges as he laughs, tightening his grip on her shoulders.

“I suppose. You’re forgiven then. Just try not to get yourself so fucking nerved up. And remember I’m just used to these situations more than you. Just try not to go so fucking schoolteacher on me next time, yeah? Maybe like fucking tell me instead?”

“I know. My mind is just reeling. It’s so out of my comfort zone.”

“That’s why you’ve got me,” he smiles sweetly as her lips quirk to the side. “And I’m sorry for threatening to go all King Kong back there,” he smirks, as she offers a laugh. “Truce?”

“Truce,” she agrees.

“Seal it with a kiss?” He flirts, moving in to kiss her gently, running his tongue across her lip as she grants access, exploring each other as he pulls her to him tightly, her hands exploring his back and waist. When he pulls back, she is breathless, her lipstick smeared around her mouth.

“Well, at least they’re going to know it’s a genuine relationship,” he gestures to her lips as she frowns, turning in his arms to look in the mirror.

“Jesus Christ,” she groans, reaching for a paper towel to try and salvage it a little so it wasn’t so fucking obvious whilst his lips, move down to her neck.

“Leave it there,” he mumbles into her pulse point. “Let them fucking see it.”

She turns in his arms towards him, moving the paper towel to his lips to wipe away the remnants of her lipstick as he scrunches his face up.

“Why don’t you just let me fuck you right here?” He breathes, his dark eyes staring into hers, pushing his hips into hers, moving to lightly peck her lips as she smirks. “Let them all hear you scream my name. Leave no fucking room for question. Monica Lewinsky your skirt and everything. Then we won’t need to convince anyone of anything,” he leans in pecking her lips again as she responds lightly.

“You seem confident that I would be screaming your name,” she mumbles against his lips.

“I’m not kidding,” he says pulling away.

“I know,” she laughs. “That’s what’s so disconcerting.”

“Can’t help if lil’ Rome wants you every fucking minute of every day.”

“Good god,” she groans, lolling her head back.

“What?” He laughs watching her, as she looks back down to him.

“Behave,” she pecks quickly.

“I can’t,” he smirks. “You’re too fucking enticing.”

“We need to get back. They’ll start to wonder.”

“That’s the point.”

“I’m serious,” she frowns. “We don’t need the rumours.”

“You still want to do this then? Still go public?” He asks gently as his head tilts to the side. “You’re in?”

“Yeah,” she sighs. “Like you said, we can control the optics I suppose.”

“Don’t worry,” he smiles. “I’m not going to do a Tom Cruise.”

“I would hope fucking not.”

“You’ll be great. You always are,” he assures.

“I hope so.”

“We continue this,” he pecks her lips to make his point, “later then?”

“We’ll see how well you do,” she smiles as she pushes him away, moves to unlock the door before opening it.

“Siren,” he whispers into her ear as she steps out of the bathroom, throwing a flirtatious smirk over her shoulder before leading the way to the makeup room.

 

****

 

They’re sat closely together on the small couch, she ensuring her skirt is fully pulled down past her knees as she crosses her legs over, he fixing his tie, asking the Karolina if he has anything in his teeth as she shakes her head at him.

The interviewer was a pleasant woman in her 40’s, balancing an iPad on the thigh of her crossed legs, a large smile on her face, beautiful teeth, though they are hard to see with the big fuck off flood lights and camera next to her, pointed distractedly in their direction.

The interviewer had had a short impromptu conversation with them, apparently a standard practice according to Roman and Karolina in order for the repertoire between the interviewer and interviewees to become more comfortable. Roman had noted the corporate flirting with shareholders and important boring old cunts version of Gerri come out on display easily. Large interested smiles, convincing fake laughs, asking thoughtful questions in response about the interviewer’s work had been expertly handled. Roman realises that Gerri had for once failed to consider how many years she had been skilfully doing PR bullshit with investors. He tells her so when the interviewer calls a short break before the real deal, something that seems to give her an element of relief.

His hand finds Gerri’s just before they are about to start, the interviewer liaising with some fucking dude he’s never seen before.

“You okay?” He mumbles, his face close to hers, squeezing her fingers.

“Yeah,” she sighs.

“Just give me a signal if you want me to take a question,” he murmurs quietly as she nods. “You take the shitty Waystar ones. They’re boring as fuck anyway.”

She smiles, shaking her head a little as she squeezes his hand, trying to psyche herself up.

“Just like talking to investors, without questions in response of course,” she repeats quietly to herself.

“Top class acting. Oscar worthy,” he jokes. “You’ve been killing those for years so you’ll be fine,” he grins wider, squeezes her hand, earning a smile in return from her before a cough from the interviewer interrupts them, Gerri’s hand dropping his abruptly and clasping her own on top of her thigh immediately. His grin turning to a smirk as he regards the interviewer, leaning back against the couch and putting his arm across the back of it, careful not to touch her shoulder.

“You good to get started?” She asks kindly.

“Sure,” Gerri answers gently.

“Abso…lutely,” he smiles, looking to Gerri as her plastered smile turns to look at him, her eyes widening.

“Okey,” the interviewer smiles. “Three… two… one…,” she pauses as they watch the camera man gesture above his head that they were filming, Gerri’s smile becoming firmer as she tries to look only to the interviewer and ignore the beast of a camera.

“Joining me today is the Interim Chief Executive Officer of media conglomerate Waystar Royco, Gerri Kellman, and Chief Operating Officer, Roman Roy, son of the infamous Logan Roy,” the interviewer begins as Roman finds himself grimacing a little, trying to hide it before his whole face reveals himself, whilst Gerri gives her best effort not to look around to him and check that he’s not just rolled his eyes or worse.

She knows that Logan wouldn’t be brought up, had made it a fixed stipulation that no questions would be asked about him or the interview would be terminated immediately, but it was still a shock to hear his name.

“It’s great to see you again, Roman,” The interviewer smiles. “And meet you Gerri.”

Gerri offers a smile before Roman interjects.

“Where was it we met? I want to say Oscars 2017,” he narrows his eyes with a smile.

“Yeah, I think it was when you showed up with a huge bag of marshmallows, handing them out to celebrities on the red carpet as you walked it,” the interviewer jokes.

“God, I remember that,” Gerri mutters, shaking her head.

“Hey,” he defends. “Meryl Streep was thankful. The poor woman was starving. And if I remember correctly, Laura, you took a few yourself… come on… you know you did,” he points at her with a smirk and his sly little giggle.

“I believe I did,” she laughs as they both do alongside her, Gerri’s tension lightening a little.

“So, how have you both been doing with the turmoil that Waystar has been facing in the past year?” The interviewer begins with the expected airy question.

“It’s been challenging, of course,” Gerri answers first, her voice light though unwavering, happy to answer the safe zone question in this whole interview. “But I think we have been very lucky that the shareholders have put such faith into the direction that we have wanted to take the company in. Of course, as you likely know, when I was made Interim CEO and Chair, we were faced with the possibility of a takeover, in the middle of a proxy war, the shareholders meeting only a week away from casting their vote. So, we were very fortunate that the buyers decided to pull out before that happened or who knows where we would be now,” she laughs, before Roman interjects.

“Of course, we know why they pulled out. It’s no secret that Gerri has always been a very intelligent and conscientious employee of Waystar who has always done nothing but a stellar job in her position as Legal Counsel,” he smirks with pride. “If anyone else had taken the position, I don’t think the buyers would have gone running like they did. Gerri is super popular and valued as a leader among both employees and shareholders so I think it was obvious that they would have voted in her favour to be the new captain of our ship even if it had come to down to it,” Roman smiles, unashamedly going off script to remind the board and anyone else paying attention of the reputation that had preceded her, as Gerri has the good grace to look almost bashful as she modestly scolds him.

“He is definitely overplaying my strengths here,” Gerri jokes, as the interview offers a laugh in return, Roman smirking behind her. “But I think we have had a great team,” Gerri nods, her genuine smile now plastered to her lips. “A great COO, of course,” she adds with a lilt as he grasps his lapels comically and straightens them smugly. “It’s been a difficult year but with the hard work and innovation of our employees and their passion to do the best to bring the best possible entertainment to our customers, we’ve been able to come through it unscathed thus far. It has definitely been a collective effort to bring us to where we are today.”

“And you guys have been doing great this year,” the interviewer moves on. “The acquisition of the new airline. A new streaming platform coming out in the next few months. June, right?”

“June 10th,” he confirms. “And this project is my baby, so I expect you to get an immediate subscription, Laura.”

“You bet I will,” she jokes. “Huge Broadway fan. So, this was your idea, Roman?”

“Absolutely, it was just something I had in the back of my head for a while. I was skewering social media and I saw all these people who were desperate to get recordings of the Broadway and West End musicals and plays and there didn’t seem to be a huge platform for that, so alongside our already existing films and TV shows and my experience in the LA, I took it to Gerri as just a thought and she gave me the reins to go for it. It’s been really great,” Roman explains excitedly as Gerri looks onto him with genuine pride.

“So, you’d say Gerri has been a good boss to you then?” The interviewer asks as Roman grins, Gerri licking her lips in anticipation of his answer.

“I would say so, yeah,” he answers firmly, pushing off the back of the sofa, sitting up straight. “People don’t realise how important it is to have a fair and approachable boss in a workplace, especially one who cares for their employees as well as putting the best interests of Waystar itself at the forefront. It honestly, and I think so many people who work in Waystar with us would agree with me here. It honestly, makes such an unbelievable difference when you have a boss with an open mind who you can go to with potential ideas that you’re not afraid will get immediately shot down without consideration. It’s also a welcome… uhm… element, to have someone who has the scrupulous attention to detail and reason to weigh up whether your idea is genuinely good or completely bogus, or even has potential. Having that work environment when you know that someone will give you feedback on your idea and encourage it to grow into something even more amazing is a welcome factor that makes me happy to go to work every day and makes everyone happier which of course trickles down.”

Gerri smiles purely at his answer, looking around to him with a small smile, her cheeks rosy as a blush forms.

“What? It’s true,” he shrugs, turning his attention back to the interviewer as Gerri follows his example.

“It’s my understanding though,” the interviewer smiles, “that the rumours are true and your work relationship has extended into the realms of a personal relationship now though? Is that right?”

Both of them smile widely, Gerri looking down to her hands before looking at him before he shrugs and gestures for her to speak first if she wants to.

“Yes. That’s right,” Gerri laughs a little. “Our relationship became more personal relatively recently after months of bonding in that close-knit environment for so many months after such tremendous stress. We had a lot of other factors contribute to it too, such as a water-skiing accident with Roman that left him in a precarious situation and the stress of the trial with his father which was harrowing to us both. It ended in a great deal of reliance on each other in a way that is often natural in these settings, but our relationship progressed into something deeper and the rest as they say is history,” she shrugs with a smile.

“This isn’t new for you, Gerri though. You also met your late husband in Waystar in the 80’s, right?” The interview adds in.

“Yes,” she laughs. “I did.”

“She’s making a habit of it apparently,” Roman jokes as Gerri and the interviewer laugh.

“When you work the sometimes eighteen-hour days that I do, there isn’t much opportunity to meet anyone anywhere else on the outside,” Gerri jokes again, tightening her fingers harder in her grasp, hoping to move away from the subject of Baird quickly.

“As is common with most people meeting their partners in workplaces nowadays,” the interviewer interjects.

“Absolutely,” Gerri affirms, rolling her lips into her mouth awkwardly.

“It’s my understanding that this is the first you have revealed anything about your relationship until now though. Is there a reason you kept it so secretive? Or was it a secret? Is it in its infancy or?” The interviewer asks, Roman tapping Gerri’s knee to indicate he would take this question.

“Nah, it wasn’t a secret,” Roman rejects firmly. “What you need to understand is that Gerri and I have known each other for years, donkey’s years, and have always had a great friendship and repertoire, so when it became something more, what usually happens in a new relationship was already there. Trust, respect, understanding each other’s personality. It didn’t even progress into anything until a couple of months ago and even then, we weren’t sure if it was something that we even wanted to delve into with all the stress that was surrounding us at that time. Then when we finally did there was a lot to consider. First of all we have a notification clause in Waystar that demands that we notify the board of our relationship to avoid any shenanigans and then obviously we wanted to tell our families before we told the wider public, as would anyone,” he explains as Gerri nods quietly next to him, chancing a glance to Karolina who gives a thumbs up and nod.

“You mentioned the notification clause in Waystar. Only some companies still have that. For the people who don’t know, how does that work?”

Gerri immediately takes the opportunity to answer another safe question, before Roman piped up.

“Well,” she drones. “When you sign your employment contract you agree to the notification clause which Roman just explained. So, what happens is you meet with the board and inform them of your new relationship into the facts of when you got together and the nature of the relationship and so on, which is what we did when we realised this was serious. Then they decide whether to conduct an investigation to ensure there’s no funny business.”

“By funny business you mean?” The interviewer interjects.

“Dodgy dealings, promotions, bonuses. General fraudulent or untoward behaviour,” Gerri explains, her clasped hands stroking her thigh. “So, they conduct the interview to ensure that you haven’t engaged in any of that unfavourable behaviour, particularly when one of you is a superior to the other which in this case, as I of course am. They make sure you’re not using your position of power to take advantage or look for a leg up,” she laughs a little as Roman snorts next to her. “Then they conduct an investigation where they interview employees around you to see if your relationship is adversely affecting the business. Then they make a decision on whether it’s accepted or not, and procedures are put in place if it is, such as a higher ranked employee taking responsibility for things such as promotions, bonuses and so on. In our case it would be the board who would take the control of that.”

“And if it’s not accepted?” The interviewer pushes.

“Well either the relationship would need to cease and usually the employees separated if there’s no foul play. But, normally the senior member of staff would be forced to quit if one of them didn’t offer to resign,” Gerri offers resolutely, trying to keep the nonchalant smile on her lips as she gives a small resigned shrug.

“Gee, that’s pretty brutal,” the interviewer comments.

“That’s one word for it,” Roman offers, leaning back on the couch again as he concentrates on his hand drawing patterns on his thigh instead of the interview.

“And the interview of your employees has yet to take place?” The interviewer asks.

“Starting this week,” Gerri smiles, her hands firm on her knee now.

“Have you decided if one of you would leave or?” The interviewer prods.

“Well we both want to keep our positions. Both of us are devoted to Waystar and have been our whole lives, so neither of us want to hand in a resignation. But if it came down to it, as the higher-ranking officer, it would be myself on the chopping block,” Gerri explains, trying to sound as clinical as possible, as Roman puffs angrily behind her, his tongue pushing into his cheek.

“So, you have a lot riding on this Gerri, huh?” The interviewer asks.

“Yeah,” she grimaces though her voice is light, lolling her head from side to side. “Though I would be pretty devastated to lose my position, it would be worth it for the happiness it’s brought to my life. While I’m committed whole-heartedly to Waystar, this is also not something I’m willing to lose.”

“So, you would quit?” The interviewer tries to confirm.

Gerri hears Roman huff loudly behind her as the interviewer asks the question.

“I wouldn’t have a choice,” Gerri offers seriously. “Some things are more important.”

“That’s very noble of you,” the interviewer says leaning back in her seat impressed. “Do you think there would be a backlash from within Waystar then?”

“I would hope not,” Gerri looks around to Roman with a smile, looking for some input. “Luckily, Roman was made the COO back in June before I was elected Interim CEO and long before this started so there have been no promotions, nor unwarranted bonuses, nothing like that to speak of,” she laughs.

“Only the ten million in shares you gifted to me but who’s counting that?” Roman jokes as Gerri gasps, hitting Roman on the leg.

“Roman! That’s not funny. People will take that seriously,” she admonishes with a laugh.

“Jesus, I’m kidding!” He laughs, holding his hands up in surrender, as Gerri rolls her eyes with a smirk, the interviewer laughing. “No there has been no foul play at all. The board seemed surprised but relatively accepting of the announcement. We told our team this morning and they were very congratulatory. We have a great bunch of people in there and to be honest I think they will just be pleased to see us happy.”

“That’s a good thing,” The interviewer reasons. “Have you been expecting some backlash from the public? From what you’re both doing today?”

Gerri looks around to Roman, unsure how to start this one off, before he purses his lips, offering to answer this one on their behalf.

“Honestly, Laura?” He sings lightly, leaning forward. “Yeah. Yeah, we are,” he sighs as Gerri bites the inside of her mouth, pouting as she listens to his answer. “And I’m going to be quite frank here. I think it’s absolutely frickin’ nonsensical.”

“Roman,” Gerri warns, looking around to him as she spots Karolina throw her hands up in the air and turn in a circle.

“No, Gerri. I just want to say this,” he tries to abate, knowing where he’s going with this, noting the interviewer’s raised eyebrows as Gerri bites her tongue. “To point out the big fat elephant in the room, Gerri is twenty years older than me,” he rolls his eyes, twinkling his fingers in the air. “And for some reason people feel the need to be very ageist and form an opinion on a relationship based on that alone instead of actually looking at the foundation and inner workings of the happiness the relationship creates. And you know what? It drives me frickin’ nuts, because we have no control over that. We have a bunch of people sitting at home potentially watching this who are going to instantaneously say she’s how old? And he’s that old? And that’s a huge difference and he must be in it for that and she must be in it for this? And like, no. No one knows us. No one knows how our relationship works and why we love each other and why we’re such a good fit because it’s literally no one’s business. It doesn’t affect how we work, does it Gerri?” He asks, gesturing to her.

“No, it doesn’t,” she sighs, resigned to the words already having left his mouth, nothing he was spouting was incorrect though she wouldn’t have done it. “We have always been very adamant about keeping professional and personal life separate.”

“Exactly,” he nods, looking back around to the interviewer. “We know there are going to be people out there who don’t get it and cool but like keep your opinion to yourself man. Like Gerri said, there is a lot riding on this. She could be forced to give a job she is made for just off of the public’s reaction alone and that honestly, is completely uncool. We’re happy and reading what Sandy from Charlottesville thinks about it, isn’t going to make me stop loving her. Like, look at her?” He says holding his hands up to gesture to her as Gerri brings her hands up to cover her face, spreading her fingers across it as she smiles embarrassed before she looks over to him with wide eyes, this whole thing getting way out of hand. “She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and sassy as hell. Who wouldn’t love her?”

“Okay, Rome,” Gerri warns through a smile, holding her hand up to him, placing it on his knee to attempt to silence him before she turns back to the interviewer while he shrugs behind her. “What I think Roman is trying to say is that yeah, we know what people will think but it isn’t true. We are very happy together and don’t feel that we have to justify the personal workings of our relationship to anyone, because, without sounding horrifically cliché here, love is love and it has no rhyme or reason. And that’s what this is, no matter what anyone thinks about it,” she finishes as Roman burrows his hand underneath hers, threading his fingers through hers before grasping it tightly with a smile.

“It seems both of you are very in sync with your views,” the interviewer laughs.

“Some of us louder and more brash in our opinions than others, but yes, we have the same thoughts about it,” Gerri smiles, as Roman rolls his eyes.

“I just don’t want anyone’s opinion to scare her away and make her realise what she’s got herself into,” he laughs lightly, bringing their clasped hands up to his lips to kiss the back of her hand. Gerri looks around slowly, noting how he’s slyly broken the rule of no kissing, kicking herself yet smirking for not realising he would always push the boundaries of what was and was not acceptable. She wonders how he can always get away with it, he the only person who can make it charming, the very thing making him the most unique person she’s ever encountered.

“I know what I’ve gotten myself into,” Gerri says quietly, staring at him as he smirks. “And I’m not scared away.”

“So, you consider yourself to be truly captured after years of playing the field then, Roman?” The interviewer cheekily fishes, as they both look back to her.

“Without a single doubt,” he breathes with a huge grin, Gerri looking around to him, mirroring his smile before turning back to the camera with it plastered on her face.

Chapter Text

They discuss the interview in the car journey back to the office, Karolina doing most of the talking about all the interpretations, pitfalls, and possible future moves they can make, whilst Roman shrugs and barely defends his tirade. Gerri remains relatively quiet as she listens to Karolina list the pros and cons, unsure herself on how it would come across without seeing it.

The interviewer gave them a timescale of an hour to get the preliminary footage sent over to them so they could decide if they wanted any of it cut, a long enough time for Gerri to allow her thoughts to run before she could make her decision upon review.

She doesn’t think it went that badly, Roman’s irritation could be interpreted as passion, as well as his directness about the situation could potentially squash a certain amount of backlash on the main judgements they were due to face. However, she can’t help but feel a huge amount of relief, and dare she think it, adoration of his defence of them. His words and praise of her were surprising yet stimulating. He had given them the public the Roman-esque manner that they apparently so appreciated, and she should have expected nothing less herself. If the interview came across badly, then the one thing she did have was the assurance that he was committed to them, devoted to her, and willing to battle for them if the need arose. The thought of that alone stirs arousal in her, the twisting in her stomach present since the moment it had happened, and quite honestly, she couldn’t wait to get him alone.

 

They all huddle around Karolina’s tablet to watch the footage back, all of them determining that his candour had been more endearing than combative. Gerri is surprised at how easy she looks considering how nervous she had been. Karolina herself had commented on how Gerri had struck the right balance of coming across astute in her description of the clause, humble in her acknowledgement of the team effort in Waystar’s success in the past year, as well as endearing in the affection she displayed towards Roman. It had shocked Gerri the most when she had watched the footage and noticed her small smiles, her coyness when he had admired her, the tapping of his leg in jest, the gentle admonishments when attempting to cease his outburst with a simple hand on his knee. She hadn’t realised that she engaged in all that until it was right there for her to view. She had simply done it without thinking and she supposes that this is perhaps why Karolina had caught onto them so quickly. Roman, of course, had come across as he usually did, all facial expressions and quips – cheeky with a side of charm, exactly what the public adored about him. His kissing of the back of her hand had been the most engaging, sure that it would stir something in the public as much as it was further enticing the knot in her stomach. So, they had decided to go ahead and release the whole thing, nothing in there scathing enough to be misinterpreted; the right balance of professional and yet adoring being given off.

“You’re lucky, you know,” Karolina comments when they are all sitting separately, the footage sent to each of their emails as they ponder over them again independently.

Gerri looks up from her tablet to see Karolina staring at Roman, his eyes glued to his tablet, eventually recognising the silence in the room before looking up to them through his eyelashes.

“What? Me?” He asks, his tone shocked.

“Yes, you,” Karolina smirks as Gerri looks inquisitively between them.

“What did I do?” He asks balancing the tablet on his thigh.

“The kiss,” Karolina narrows her eyes at him, as he smirks again, looking down to his tablet.

“Hardly even a kiss. A peck! A brushing of lips!” He defends, snickering as Gerri’s lips twitch.

“I warned you, Roman,” Karolina says flatly. “You need to watch with things like that. This time it came across as sweet but next time it might not. You don’t want people to start cringing at overfamiliar public displays of affection.”

“I knew what I was doing,” he mumbles, scrolling back to the point of the interview that she had distracted him from.

“Oh, well I may as well up and quit then since you don’t need my expert advice,” Karolina challenges, with a quirked eyebrow as he snorts, Gerri watching as Karolina’s mood becomes more serious.

“Karolina’s right,” Gerri affirms, as Roman looks up to her with a grimace. “It may have come across as cute this time but in the future, we need to follow the advice.”

“I don’t think there was anything wrong with it,” Roman defends, twisting his lips. “They’ll be writing fanfictions about us. Just you wait and see.”

Gerri rolls her eyes as Karolina huffs looking towards her.

“Roman,” Gerri lowers voice, her warning tone at its optimum. “You went way off script as well. We need to listen to Karolina.”

“So what? It played?” He defends with a smirk.

“Yeah,” Gerri challenges, as Karolina watches on. “And you’re lucky I’m so damn adaptable that I could go along with it. There is no point in us spending all of our time preparing if you’re going to start ad libbing your answers. You could have thrown me off and created an almighty shit show for all of us, especially Karolina. So, from now on, stick with the planned answers.”

He frowns again, looking between the two of them, his lip curling up at the side in disgust at the prospect of being boring.

“No one said you can’t add your own flare,” Karolina adds with a smile.

“Within reason,” Gerri warns again.

“But the foundations of the points are carefully thought out so I would appreciate it if you at least used them as your skeleton when doing PR,” Karolina says gently, tilting her head to the side.

“Fine,” he groans, going back to the tablet.

“Okay,” Karolina sighs. “Well I’ve sent off the email with the approval so that gives them ample time to edit it and send it back. I’ll shoot it over to you both as soon as I get it,” she rhymes off, standing as she folds over the cover of her tablet.

“Great,” Gerri smiles as Roman hums.

“I have a four O’clock, so I’ll catch up with you both later. Are you in for a late one?” Karolina asks walking towards the door, her hand settled on its handle.

“Yeah, I think so,” Gerri sighs. “Have some things to catch up on since we were out of commission this afternoon.”

“No problem,” Karolina smiles, before turning towards the door and opening it.

“Oh, and Karolina,” Gerri says quickly, the door being closed firmly again before she speaks. “If you have the time could do a little meandering around to see how the news from the meeting this morning was actually received. I want to make sure we can squash something if it arises,” Gerri smiles kindly.

“Sure. No problem,” Karolina smiles, before exiting the room.

Gerri looks back towards Roman, takes in how he’s slumped on her couch, intently paying attention to every single word that leaves their mouth in the video. He seems so nonchalant about the whole way he had taken such a risk in the interview, disregarding the hard work Karolina had put in and it almost frustrates her, however, the overwhelming ongoing stirring between her legs is her predominant distraction here; and suddenly, she has an idea.

“And what am I going to do with you?” She asks abruptly, as he looks up quickly.

“Me? I don’t care what you both say. It played well,” he shrugs nonchalantly.

“No,” she says firmly, blinking slowly as she uncrosses her legs, leaning closer to him across the coffee table. “What am I going to do about you being a disobedient little puppy?” She growls quietly, her eyes pointed towards him as she watches his eyebrows slowly rising, his eyes blackening.

“What?” He breathes.

“You heard me,” she bites roughly.

“Gerri,” he whispers, looking around the room. “Anyone could hear this.”

She smirks, leaning back on the couch again, her arm resting across the back of it.

“Obviously, you haven’t been reading your emails, have you?” She challenges as his eyebrows knit together in confusion. “They did a sweep on Monday. No more bugs.”

“What?” He whispers, still staring at her.

“You didn’t think I was going to allow people to tap into this room when I didn’t have to, did you?”

“No,” he breathes, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “I suppose not.”

The thought that they were really doing this here, about forty people on the other side of the glass panels next to him was even more of a turn on than splurging on his office window looking out onto the city. He never would have thought it of Gerri; not in a million years.  

“So, what am I going to do with you, my disobedient little puppy?” She asks seriously again. “How am I going to teach you to behave?”

He doesn’t think he has the ability to form words right now, doesn’t know what he would say even if he was able to. He instead simply stares at her self-satisfied smirk, his hips rolling on the couch until he was even further slumped.

“I think we should take a look at your bruises,” she changes tactics quickly, standing up abruptly, walking over to her desk.

“Wait, what?” He moans, watching as she bends down at her hips to reach for her purse, her curvaceous derriere on display, her skirt riding up the back of her thigh a little to expose the expanse of her skin on her straightened out leg. He fucking loves her thighs, the hottest part of her in his eyes and she fucking knows it as she teases him with a peek at them.

“The makeup on your face,” she affirms, standing up and pushing the hair away from her cheek, rummaging in her purse for the makeup. “Go in my bathroom. I’ll be there in a second.”

His eyes dart from her to the bathroom, unsure if this was what he thought it was. She had sounded so erotic just a minute ago, like he was about to get a valuable fucking lesson from schoolteacher Gerri, and now here she was like fucking Miss Honey, with a sunny lilt, ready to take care of him and reapply the makeup to his battered face. He can’t decide if she was using the bathroom for a quick rendezvous or was literally just using it to hide his bashed face as she fixed it. But he wasn’t going to find out sitting fucking here.

He gets up quickly, makes his way to her bathroom, looks over his shoulder at her to see she isn’t paying any attention to him at all. As soon as he is beyond the threshold, he moves his hand down to press against his semi through his pants, his hips automatically gyrating into them as he considers what might be about to come.

“Okay,” she sighs walking into the bathroom with a select few pieces of makeup. “Let’s have a look,” she smiles gently at him as he frowns a little.

“Uhm… okay,” he mumbles, leaning back against the sink as she stands close to him, setting the makeup on the edge of the sink behind him.

She trails her hand across his face, the bruises barely showing through, the truth of the matter that the bruises can’t be seen at all through all the makeup that was caked on but this being a part of her master plan. He can feel her warm breath on his face again, her breathing louder than it was this morning. He wonders if that’s just his perception of his anticipation of having the heat of her closer to him or if she was just as loud when she was applying it earlier. Regardless, he feels the urge to push his hips further into her to get some delicious friction against his growing hard on. He finds his hands coming up to settle on her hips, surprised when she reacts immediately.

“Hands on the sink,” she barks quickly, stone faced, his hands instantly reaching the sink on either side of his hips as she continues smoothing over the existing makeup across his cheekbone.

She reaches behind him, momentarily pushing her thigh into the hard member between his legs, the need to control the small smirk that comes to her lips when she realises this is working undeniable. She picks up the concealer, squeezing a small circle onto her index finger before she releases the pressure back off of him.

“You really took a big risk today,” she deadpans, dabbing spots of the concealer in a curved line under his eyebrow around the bone and under his eye. “You really could have caused a huge mishap, you know. Not only for us but for Karolina too,” she expresses seriously as she continues to caress the concealer into his face.

He moves to open his mouth to protest but she gets there first.

“Don’t speak,” she instructs authoritatively with a pointed stare. “I’m speaking now.”

He takes a huge gulp, closing his eyes momentarily before opening them to look at her weakly.

“You caught me off guard,” she offers lightly. “All those things you said about me,” she reveals as he raises an eyebrow. “You can be really sweet sometimes; do you know that?”

He doesn’t answer, knows he isn’t allowed to; doesn’t even offer a nod in recognition this time. He can barely hear her over the sound of his own breathing, his vision stuck on her blue eyes as they concentrate on her gentle caresses under his eyebrow.  

“The way you raved about me as a CEO,” she comments absentmindedly, still not looking anywhere but where her fingers are trailing. “It was very touching, Rome. You really didn’t have to do that.”

She finally looks to his eyes briefly as he offers a small smile, trying to communicate that it was true, that it wasn’t a ploy of any kind.

“Even the way you defended us,” she whispers, pulls her finger back, rubbing the remnants lightly against her thumb. “You were like a lovesick little puppy,” she smiles, shifting her hands to rest on his chest, moving her lips to his neck as his eyes flutter closed, releasing a huge breath that swooshes against her neck, trying to keep himself under control.

“Beautiful,” she kisses his neck, “smart,” she repeats his words from earlier, “funny,” she mumbles against his pulse point, “sassy,” she says as she continues open mouthed kisses along his neck as she hears his breath continuously hitch at each peck. “I could have taken you right there,” she breathes next to his ear. “And how much you took care of me when I was uncomfortable,” she mumbles against his ear, pushing her chest into his. “How you calmed me down in the bathroom and let me take all the Waystar questions. How you bolstered me,” she whispers, pulling back to look at him until her nose was almost brushing his.

“I’ve been worked up ever since,” she breathes seductively, his eyes closing, sighing as he opens them to look at her pleadingly. “Wanted to take you right here when we got back,” she admits quietly, running her hands down his chest until they were tucked slightly into his pants, her fingers tightening on his belt.

“Yes,” he whispers as his eyes become hooded with arousal.

“But then you showed zero remorse for the mischievousness in kissing my hand, for your waywardness from the script,” she hardens her voice as her hands run back up his chest, pushing up over his shoulders. “Poor Karolina put all that hard work into planning for this and you had no understanding of that, of how it could have gone so array,” she frowns. “You showed no respect for me and how it could have thrown me off and made me even more uncomfortable. You showed no intention to change your undisciplined, erratic ways, no matter how well it played this time,” she tells him resolutely, running her hand around to the back of his neck, pressing closer to him as he moans heavily.

“I think you need to be taught a lesson,” she breathes an inch away from his lips, her fingers gently tickling below his hairline as he feels the electricity it’s creating run down his spine. “A lesson of obedience,” she growls out, her tone low as she brings up her other hand to gently caress the concealer around his eye one last time.

“Do you think you can be good?” She asks with a quirked eyebrow.

He merely nods slowly, pushes his hips up into her.

“Ah, ah, ah,” she warns, moving her hips away from him as he moans, the frown on his face evident. “You did well in the interview,” she praises. “Very well. Only through your cockiness being so charming. But your mischievousness could have cost us,” she explains quietly, dabbing the final part of his eye before pulling her hand away. “So, if you want me to keep my promise of continuing this,” she smirks, pecking his lips with the ghost of a kiss, “later, then you’re going to have to be very very well-behaved for the rest of the day.”

“Gerri,” he groans pleadingly.

“Uh, what did I say?” She challenges with a quirked eyebrow as he growls again, bowing his head in desperation, before looking back up to her in silence.

“Do you think you can do that?” She whispers, moving closer to him again, her mouth an inch away from his as his eyes dart down to watch her gently lick them, succulently wetting her lips to entice him. “Do you think you can do as your told?”

He nods quickly again, his eyes never leaving her lips, desperate to run his own tongue across them as if he had completely forgotten how they felt.

“Then here’s your task. You go to your office and get all your work done, so we aren’t here until all hours,” she dictates as he nods profusely again. “There will be no touching me until I tell you that you can,” she rhymes off as she watches him groan and squeeze his eyes closed, nodding through it. “You can only discuss work with me until I say so. No flirting. No suggestive comments,” she stipulates as his eyes snap open, his frown evident. “That’s the rules. No bending them. No looking for the way around them,” she specifies firmly, the idea of this game surging her own arousal. “Do you have any questions?” She smirks as he pants before her, trying to get his breathing under control.

“When does this go on until?” He asks, his voice wavering.

“Until I think you’ve learned your lesson,” she smiles, running her hand from his neck down his chest, as he nods instantaneously.

“Do you want a safe word?” She smirks, raising an eyebrow.

“How about Nan Pierce?” He jokes.

“If that’s what you want,” she shrugs, trying to hold in a scoff. “You do this,” she breathes, her own voice hitching as her hand wanders south, grazing his erection through his pants, “and I’ll make it worth your while,” she whispers, closer to his lips.

“Fuck, Gerri,” he groans, pressing his forehead against hers with his eyes closed as she strokes his length gently, feeling it twitch through his pants.

“Do you agree to the terms?” She asks, pulling back from his forehead.

“Fuck yes,” he breathes, his eyes rolling back into his head as he feels her fingers against him.

“Good little pup,” she smiles, leaning in to give a gentle peck that he tries to push back into harder, before she pulls back from him immediately. “Now get going to do your work,” she orders. “Chop chop.”

He groans, hanging his head as he releases the huge breath he had been holding in before looking up to her wildly.

“You’re a real fucking siren, do you know that? You’ve never been so fucking hot,” he groans, pushing off the sink.

She quirks an eyebrow, challengingly.

“No flirting,” she reminds him as she moves to pick up the makeup, hearing him walk towards the door. “And Roman,” she growls, as he stops at the threshold, pressing against the doorframe. “No relieving yourself either,” she adds, gesturing down to his groin.

“Fucking temptress,” he grunts, pressing his forehead against the doorframe.

“That’s the rules,” she smiles.

“Fine,” he whines, before pushing off the doorframe and walking as quick as he can with the problem between his legs out of her office.

She can’t help the small laugh to herself, the shiver than runs through her body in excitement at the game she’s just created. It was going to be a long few hours.

 

****

 

“Can just you get it together, dude?” He says out loud, down to his crotch for what must have been the fourteenth time. It had been three hours and it had been yoyoing from semi to hard the whole time. Much to his surprise it could be anything that could bring it back to life. Thinking of what was going to happen later, thinking of whether it would be here or at home, thinking of her growling voice as she set out her rules, seeing her ignoring him when he looked through the glass, seeing her small knowing smirk when he caught her eye. It was anything at this point.

He has to admit, he’s unbelievably fucking stimulated by this game. They had never done anything like this since they had got together and he can feel the arousal moving from his groin into his veins, into his pulse; it’s the most intensely turned on he thinks he’s ever been in his whole fucking life. Gerri as his Dom was always a sexual fantasy that was hot as fuck, but without the insults, with the knowledge that there was love there, with the awareness that this was just a big game of edging until he got to fuck her was orgasmic in itself. He just never thought she would be into it after refusing to insult him anymore when he felt like shit. But this Gerri, ordering him around, being an erotic fucking seductress, sex as the reward was top fucking tier.

 

She had been watching him throughout the past few hours, smirking as she seen his conscientiousness to get the work done that he was supposed to. The array of emails coming into her inbox with the updates of everything he had achieved had been the proof and she wonders if she should be doing this more often. She can’t help but notice when he’s watching her, going between ignoring him to continue this little game she had entangled them in, and giving him the little bit of flirtatious recognition he needed to spur him on further.

It’s just after 7.30pm when she decides to call it a day, packing her things up, he not even noticing as he types vigorously on his keyboard.

She dons his office threshold, a light knock on the glass door, his animalistic eyes finding her immediately.

“I was thinking we could call it a day?” She offers lightly. “Unless you still have some things you have to do.”

He jumps immediately.

“No, no, no,” he protests. “I’m done here. Just need to—,” he trails off, saving a draft email, shutting down a document as she smirks at his enthusiasm. “Ready whenever,” he says quickly, standing up.

“Did you make the appointment with your therapist?” She asks lightly.

“What?” He breathes, trying to think as he regards her standing so unflappable, seeming as though this whole game isn’t bothering her at all. “Oh, right, yeah. Uhm… Friday. Made it at seven. Thought we would probably be done by then.”

“Perfect,” she smiles gently. “I’ll just go get my bags.”

“What? Yeah. Cool. Uhm… great,” he fumbles, bending to pick up his briefcase, dropping it onto the floor before groaning and picking it up again as she giggles under her breath, walking back to her office.

 

****

 

Everything from then on seems so charged.

The elevator ride down to the ground floor goes on forever in complete silence as she scrolls on her phone, he simply staring at the numbers as they decrease at snail pace.

Their security team usher them out to the car, a large space in between them in the back seat; the silence between them deafening as he tries to think of something to say. He tries to think of what he is allowed to talk about, tries to think of something work related that he hasn’t already emailed her about, until she breaks the silence.

“Maria phoned earlier. She said she ordered some groceries. She usually prepares something to heat up but since she was so caught up with everything else today, I told her we would order in,” she says absently. “Maybe you can find something for us, so it comes sooner rather than later?”

“Uhm…,” he offers, scratching the back of his head, looking towards the driver and the security dude. “Am I allowed to talk about something other than work now?” He whispers conspiratorially.

Her lips twitch as she tries not to smile.

“Yes, Roman,” she deadpans. “Just not the other things we discussed,” she says quirking her eyebrow.

“Okay,” he exhales slowly with relief. “Then what were you thinking?”

“I don’t know. Whatever you think,” she says absently, looking down to her watch.

“Japanese?” He throws into the mix, pulling his phone out.

“Fine with me,” she shrugs. “Get the sushi I like too.”

“Of course.”

“See if you can get those things we had in that restaurant in Japan I liked.”

“Gyozas?” He quirks an eyebrow, questioningly.

“I know what a gyoza is,” she frowns. “No, the octopus ball things.”

“Takoyaki,” he confirms, already in the menu of her favourite Japanese restaurant.

“That’s the one,” she smiles. “Get that.”

“I’ll just get all the usual shit,” he shrugs, adding multiple dishes to the basket.

She lifts her hand out to settle on his leg, stroking up and down lightly as he immediately reacts, looking up to her wildly as she absently looks out the window.

So, the game was still on, he determines.

 

****

 

“How come you get to touch me, and I don’t get to touch you?” He asks in the elevator as she rummages through her purse for the keys.

“Because it’s my game and my rules,” she smiles, as she pulls the keys out.

“I’m starting to think this game is a bunch of bullshit,” he grimaces. “Maybe I should just fuck the whole thing up,” he challenges, moving closer to her as she remains completely still, her back pressed up against the wall of the elevator. “Maybe a bit of mischievous is exactly what you want. Maybe you want me to push my hand up under your skirt right now and fuck you with my fingers,” he whispers, a breath away from kissing her neck as he pushes against her.

“What did I say about touching me?” She barks out angrily as he pulls back immediately. “You’ve obviously not learned your lesson at all little pup,” she tuts. “It seems you’ll need a little longer to think things through.”

He huffs loudly, pressing into the elevator wall next to her.

“Gerri,” he whines.

“I warned you,” she says lightly. “If you’re not good, then you’re not going to get a treat.”

“A puppy treat?” He smirks, his shoulder brushing hers as he looks around to her.

“A special puppy treat,” she whispers conspiratorially, when the elevator dings open on their floor, as she immediately leads the way out whilst he patters dotingly behind her.

“I’ll be good,” he shouts over her shoulder as she begins to unlock the door. “I swear. I can be good,” he repeats as she swings the door open, plonking her bags down on the couch by the door. She turns around to him, closing the door over his shoulder.

“No flirting and no touching. You do as you are told. That’s the rules,” she whispers near his mouth. “Go get yourself together and set the kitchen table for dinner. I want white wine tonight. I’m going to see what Maria has done with the closet.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

****

 

It’s the most erotic dinner he’s ever had; he didn’t even know you could have an erotic dinner.

She’s sitting at the head of the table as he sits warmly next to her, observing as she swirls the white wine around her mouth slowly before swallowing, watching as she puts every item of food into her mouth, taking in her groans of pleasure as she enjoyed each bite. He’s followed every one of her movements; watched her intently as she raved about the Takoyaki, picking one up with her chopsticks and putting it directly into his mouth as she moaned at the taste, he sharing the gratification alongside her. Every one of her lewd noises had stirred him even more. He was contented with just throwing the whole thing away to get down to business, but she had other ideas; drawing the whole thing out as long as possible, unbuttoning her shirt revealing a smidgen of her ample chest as she complained about the temperature of the house, caressing his arm every now and then as she shared her ecstasy at the deliciousness of the taste. She was trying to drive him crazy, that he knew, but it was working.

When they were nearing the end of their meal, only a few choice leftovers remaining, he waited for her move, trying to be patient as she dallied in moving this whole thing along.

“We should definitely have this more often. It’s relatively healthy, isn’t it?” She asks, moving her napkin up to her lips to dab there before settling it on the table.

“Yeah,” he breathed distractedly. “It’s pretty good.”

“Are you sure you’re done?” She asks menacingly with a raised eyebrow, a small smile splaying her lips.

“Uhm… yeah,” he nods. “All full up.”

She smiles, picking up a piece of Maki, lifting it up before her to consider it.

“You didn’t even try any of these. The salmon is so fresh,” she smiles, moving it closer to his lips. “Try a bit.”

He sighs, offers a small smile as he nods. He figures that if he does whatever she wants, he’ll be a step closer to being buried inside of her, so he’ll eat whatever the fuck she wants. Obedience was the goal here to reach the endgame.

When he opens his mouth, she pushes the Maki beyond his lips, slipping her finger inside his mouth as her breath hitches, his tongue instantly rolling over the tip of her finger, sucking it gently as she pulls it out slowly.

“Good?” She breathes as he chews it slowly.

“Stunning,” he gives, his pupils dilating.

“You’ve been very good since I gave you your challenge,” she praises, standing up slowly as she picks up their plates, moving towards the sink to place them there. “Apart from your small defiance in the elevator,” she notes as he turns around in his seat to watch her. “I think you deserve a little treat after all,” she smiles, walking back towards him, pushing her hip into his shoulder as she towers above him. “Do you think you’ve learned your lesson?” She asks, pushing her hand into his hair and pushing it back.

“Yes,” he breathes quietly.

“Do you think you’ll be more considerate now?”

“Yes,” he whispers again, closing his eyes.

“Good pup,” she smiles. “Then how about you get that little ass of yours into the bedroom and we’ll see just how obedient you can be.”

A huge grin dons his lips as he gets up abruptly, sprinting to the bedroom as she chuckles under her breath, slowly following him in. She can hear the run and jump he’s made onto the bed as well as his giggling as he bounces up and down upon impact.

She walks in casually, noting the presence of her vanity as he lays on his back like a starfish on the bed, excitedly watching her. Her face is still, slowly walking towards the vanity, unclasping her necklace behind her neck and kicking her shoes off underneath the vanity. He is panting on the bed in anticipation as she starts taking of her bracelet next with her back to him, patiently taking her time.

He frowns at her speed, decides to get a head start by taking his shoes off and throwing them across the room with a thud before working on his socks.

“Did I say you could take them off?” She asks coolly with a raised eyebrow, looking over her shoulder.

“Uhm… no?” He says baring his teeth in a mocking grin, his nose wrinkled, as he throws his second sock across the room.

“Hm,” is all she offers as she faces him, lifting her skirt and taking hold of the top of her pantyhose and underwear, swooshing them down her legs in one swift motion, slowly dragging them off her feet, before picking them up and sitting them on her vanity chair.

He watches every movement, with raised eyebrows, his chest heaving in anticipation.

She finally turns around, moving towards him languidly as his eyes meet hers, his grin widening as her challenging eyebrows rise even further.

“So, you think you can do as your told?” She asks, stopping just short of him, her hands settled on her hips.

He nods excitedly, leaning back on his hands as he looks up to her.

She sighs deeply, looking him up and down, can feel her own desire rising.

“All right,” she shrugs resigned, as she begins to unbutton her shirt gradually, taking her time with every button as he quietly watches the skin of her stomach become progressively bared to him.

“No talking,” she directs. “No touching,” she continues as she pulls open her shirt, revealing the white lace surrounding her chest, her skin peeking through to further entice him. “Unless I tell you to.”

She watches his nod, his eyes glued to her chest as she takes a step towards him.

“Hands by your sides. Palms flat on the bed,” she commands abruptly when she sees them moving towards her hips. His legs widen as she stands in between them, the heat of her chest close to his face as she places her hands gently on his shoulders, running them across the cool fabric of his shirt.

“Shuffle back,” she orders gently, as he immediately bounces back a few times on the bed. “Close your legs and lie down,” she commands again, as he does so quickly, straining his head up to see her, his arms lying wide on the bed with his palms still plastered to the surface. She smirks a little as she kneels onto the mattress, crawling above him to straddle his thighs, sitting down hard, ensuring to settle nowhere near the area she knows he needs touched the most.

“What am I going to do with you?” She ponders out loud, leaning forward to run her hands from his stomach up to his pecks and then down his arms until she grasps his wrists. “Now that I have you lying here completely at my disposal,” she begins before lifting his wrists and pushing them above his head against the mattress, her eyes ordering for them to stay there for the foreseeable as she sits back up.

His breathing becomes more ragged, trying to stop his whole torso from rolling underneath her touch, the idea of being completely at her mercy too much of a fucking turn on.

“Should I just leave you here to suffer? Go to bed and get a good night’s sleep for once,” she thinks as she returns her hands to his pecks, running down to his stomach.

He shakes his head abruptly, his eyebrows knitting together.

“No?” She asks lightly. “Maybe I should just take what I need from you and be done?”

His eyes widen as he shakes his head even more vigorously this time in protest as she offers a scoff. She leans down, splaying her hands on the bed on either side of his shoulders, hovering over him as her lips come close to his, her hair tickling his face, her perfume surrounding his senses, but most importantly, her stomach applying pressure to his groin.

“I suppose you have been good,” she whispers, pecking his lips as he pushes them harder to hers. She pulls back slightly as his head tries to follow her, her laugh evident as she breaks the connection. “You’re a needy little puppy, aren’t you?” She asks as he nods slowly. “Devoted too? Or are you just an impatient little mutt who wants to take his pleasure and go?” She challenges, as his eyes grow worried, his head shaking in protest.

“Mm,” she hums pretending to consider the truth of his answer, sitting up straight again as she starts to undo the buttons of his shirt. “So, you want to please me?” She sing songs as her hands delicately push open his shirt with each button she undoes. He nods again, his exhales rhythmic with each nod, as she reaches the buttons that delve under his pants, pulling his shirt out roughly to undo them, pushing his shirt fully open.

“Tell me,” she growls, pushing her hands up the bare skin of his torso as she leans back over him, “if you were me. What do you think I should get you to do?” She asks, placing a kiss on his midriff.

She’d never done this before, with anyone; and with him lying under her, giving himself fully to her, allowing her all the control, his trust absolute, she feels her temperature rising. She wants to remind him that this is a game, without breaking the spell. She needs him to know that this isn’t compulsory and that he can say no to anything, her seeking his ideas the only way she can put that across. This wasn’t the phone calls where she berated them, this was both of them seeking pleasure with her taking control, him giving complete consent, and she needs to know he knows that.

When there is no answer, she ceases her kisses and looks up to him, noting the panic in his eyes.

“You can answer this question only,” she rolls her eyes as she returns to concentrate on her trail of kisses up towards his pecks.

“I don’t know,” he breathes. “Eat you out,” he growls, as his eyes roll closed at the feeling of her stomach pressed against his dick, her tongue darting out to lick against his chest.

“Hmm, there’s a thought,” she mumbles against his chest before moving up to his neck painfully slow until she’s scraping her teeth across his pulse point. “Do you want to eat me out, Roman?” She breaths next to his ear as he groans loudly, his lips bucking up on their own volition.

“Yes,” he whispers next to her ear with his eyes tightly closed.

“Is that the truth?” She pushes, “or are you just saying that, so I give you what you want?”

“I want to lick every fucking inch of you,” he growls out.

She sits up slowly again with a smirk, her skirt riding up even higher to sit around her hips.

“Maybe. Soon,” she quirks an eyebrow as she pushes her shirt off her back, placing it gently on the bed next to them. She looks down to him pouting, stretching above her head as he watches her take a deep breath in and huff it out slowly whilst she thinks.

She smiles lightly, crooking her finger at him and gesturing for him to sit up before her, which he follows immediately, his deep breaths splaying over her chest. She finally shuffles closer, hovering above his crotch as she lifts his chin up to look at her.

“Hands behind your back,” she whispers across his lips as he puts them on the bed behind himself, putting all his weight on them.

It’s then she pushes against his lips, invading his mouth in what can only be called an absolutely pornographic kiss. Her tongue wars with his as he finally puts up a fight, glad to finally have some semblance of control over something as she hovers above him, his hips jerking every so often as he begs for her to sit on him. They don’t last long as they both come up for breath, his lips instantaneously kissing and biting down her neck as she pants above him, her hands tight around his neck as she grins and gasps at his attentions. She feels his trail of fervour moving strongly down to the swell of her breast spilling over the lace of her cup. His kissing there is animalistic as she reaches behind her quickly to unclasp her bra, pushing if off quickly as she can to allow him to properly explore before she pushes his head harder into her breast, his mouth encasing her nipple as he licks, sucks, bites, and practically maims with his vigour. She’s astounded to find that the mixture of pleasure and pain completely takes over her, her head lolling back, her chest pushing harder into his mouth as he switches to her unattended breast. She’s even more astounded when she opens her eyes to see that his hands are still firmly on the bed behind him, a smile coming to her lips at his attentiveness of her instructions, reminding her of this game, her mind lost in the lust of the moment for a minute there.

She pulls his head up to look at her again as she offers another passionate kiss, her hands pushing the shirt off his back, his hands only leaving the bed to allow her to snatch it off before she throws it behind her, her lips never leaving his. When she has the damned thing off, she begins pushing his chest down away from her, breaking the connection of their swollen lips, so he falls back onto the bed. Her hips push lower again to sit on his thighs as she moves to his belt buckle, unclasping it as well as undoing his pants fastening whilst she breathes heavily above him. His hips easily rise up so she can push his pants and underwear down his thighs, trying to retrieve them behind her as he pushes them down his legs briskly with his feet, kicking them off the bed.

He looks up to her, her lipstick smeared over her swollen lips, her pupils blown, her glasses slightly askew, as her bare chest heaves whilst she considers what to do with him, and he doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything so fucking hot in his entire life.

She looks down to him, his eyes wild, his hair untamed as he pants from his arousal. She sees he’s more than ready for her as his dick stands hard against his lower abdomen, his taut torso rolling with the anticipation any kind of release.

She offers a wide grin, crawling back up his thighs as she finally sits on his length, his head instantly falling back with a yes slipping in a whisper from his lips, his arms wide on either side of the bed as he pushes them into the mattress. She tries to control her breathing as she feels his hips immediately gyrate up, his shaft slickly grinding through her folds, the friction deliciously taunting her swollen clit as she feels her own head roll to the side. Her hips move in synchronisation with his as they build up a slow rhythm lasting a few minutes, only their progressively ragged breathing filling the room.

“I won’t last,” he whispers, as she opens her eyes to see him pleadingly looking at her, taking the opportunity to gain back control as she abruptly lifts off his crotch, hovering above him.

“What did I tell you about speaking?” She tries to warn as her voice wavers.

He lets out a sad groan as she lifts her knee from the bed, looking as if she’s about to call the whole thing off, causing him to grimace. However, she places her knee in between his thighs.

“Spread your legs,” she instructs, her voice back to a semblance of normality. He can feel every vein in his body pulsating, his eyes become hooded with arousal, his dick twitch at just those words as he does as he’s told, lying completely at her fingertips.

She spreads her own knees apart, sitting back on her feet as she watches him, fixing her glasses as she tries to let him calm down.

“Now,” she warns intensely. “You’ve not to orgasm. In no way, shape, or form should you release. Got it?”

“Gerri, I can’t control if–,” he whines, looking up to her.

“Roman!” She shouts frustrated. “What did I say about talking?”

He moans, the back of his head hitting the mattress as he looks up to the ceiling, closing his eyes to try and get himself under control for whatever the fuck she was about to do. However, he gets an idea when he feels a swoosh of breath against the base of his shaft, looks down quickly to see her wrap her lips around the bottom of his dick as she runs her tongue up towards the tip, her soft hands gently tickling the insides of his thighs. His mouth drops open at the sight, his eyes glazing over as he takes in the picture before him; the thought of it was enough to make him release on the spot though he tries with everything in him to follow her instruction not to. They’d only ever done this that one time in London; the park pitched black, his view hazy. But here she was, with the lights on, with her mouth wrapped around his shaft as her hands move in to grasp his balls. His head hits the pillow again as he feels her take his whole dick into her mouth, one hand squeezing around his sack, her other compensating by gripping at the base for what she can’t take in her mouth. He can feel her soft lips surrounding him as she bobs her head up and down, can’t help but look down again to watch her tongue swirling against the tip and whatever else she can reach around him. She releases him with a pop as her tongue caresses back down the side of his shaft again, her tongue bumping over every vein as her hand continues to pump delicately up and down his member. He feels like he’s on the cusp of splurging, tries to remember what she had warned as he stops looking, faces the ceiling with his eyes tightly shut as he tries not to concentrate on the perfection of her silky tongue grazing him, her nose nuzzling him on her travels, her hand fondling his balls expertly, and he just can’t fucking take it anymore.

“Gerri!” He shouts abruptly. “Stop! I know I’m not allowed to talk but I’m going to come and if you don’t want me to come then you need to stop! You need to stop, like stop right now!” He pants wildly as he looks down to her, her mouth ghosting next to his pulsing dick, her hands slowly releasing from him with a smirk before she places a final peck to the tip. His head falls back onto the bed in relief, his eyes closed as he pants, feeling his dick twitching, his mind trying to send every fucking signal to tell him to calm the fuck down.

“You’re learning,” she groans, tapping his thigh so he can bring his leg in, allowing her to move over it and crawl up the bed next to him, moving her skirt off before she settles down, his eyes still closed as he throws an arm over his eyes.

She lies next to him on her side with her arm bent, one of her hands holding her head up as the other trails a line down his chest, swirling around one of his nipples lightly.

“You did as you were told even if you had to create a boundary to do it. Even if you had to give up your own pleasure to achieve it,” she notes as he continues panting. “Phase one is complete,” she smiles.

His wide shocked eyes peek wildly over his arm, looking at her as though she were fucking crazy.

“PHASE ONE!” He shouts loudly. “HOW MANY FUCKING PHASES ARE THERE?” He shouts desperately.

“As many as I say,” she challenges back solidly with a quirked eyebrow, removing her hand as he huffs dramatically, burrowing back under his arm.

“Then what the fuck is phase two?” He whines.

“Can you do as your told to benefit someone else?” She offers plainly as he drops his hand onto his chest, uncovering his eyes to regard her.

“If you’re the someone else then fucking yes,” he groans, turning towards her, careful not to touch her.

“That was a rhetorical question,” she hums, lifting her hand to run her index finger to trail across his lips as he kisses it on its voyage. “I’ll be the judge of that,” she whispers as she watches the movements of her finger. “Now, stop speaking and do as I say,” she directs, lying on her back as he watches her.

“Now, come and sit here,” she instructs, tapping her abdomen as he straddles her silently, sitting there simply, awaiting further orders.

“Come here,” she beckons with her finger until he bends down so his chest is flat against hers, his pelvis pushing down towards her bent legs to graze the tops of her thighs. He moves to kiss her before she holds a hand up against his chest to halt him, taking her glasses off, and throwing them to the other side of the bed to safety, before looking back up to him.

“Now let’s see what you can do,” she challenges with a raised eyebrow. “It’s going to require innovation, passion, and self-control,” she sets out as if she’s giving him a task at work, whilst he nods eagerly. She puts her hand behind his neck, pulling him closer to peck her lips, pushing his chest again when he tries to deepen it. “I’ve not given you your task,” she warns as he waits quietly for her to speak.

“I want you to bring me pleasure, Roman,” she growls out. “I want you to worship me like you’ve never worshipped anything in your whole life,” she breathes. “You’re not allowed to fuck me, but I’ll give you some instruction along the way,” she directs as he nods, his eyes glazing over. “Are you up to the challenge?”

All he ever wants to do always is worship Gerri and bring her pleasure. He’s glad she didn’t give him a boring task.

He nods smugly as she notes it, quirking an eyebrow.

“Then, you can touch me now,” she smiles genuinely as he jumps into the heated frenzy she had expected him to, running his hands instantly up her sides before plunging his lips towards hers, pushing her deeply into the mattress; exactly what she had wanted. She finds her own hips pushing up towards his, his hard shaft pressed against her stomach as she wraps her arms around his shoulders, deepening the ferocious kiss. His lips run fiercely down her neck towards her chest when he becomes breathless, his hands lightly caressing her sides, sending electric currents throughout her entire body as her legs start to squirm underneath him. She feels him moving downward, pushing his knees between hers to spread them, his tongue viciously licking across her chest as he approaches her breasts, launching another attack on them that she was sure would leave a few marks later. She pushes his head further into her, her back arching up into him as she gasps at his ministrations.

She can feel the pooling that had been in at her centre all day flooding, the throbbing of her clit begging to be touched.

Just when she’s about to fire an instruction at him, however, he moves his attentions lower covering every inch of her stomach and hips with his kisses and licks as his thumbs continue to brush along her nipples before gripping her waist to try and keep her still.

“Rome,” she whispers, breaking her character in a plead for him to give her what she needs. He moves his mouth down lower, kneeling between her legs before lying down to wrap his arms up under her thighs, his hands gripping over them to keep them under control. His mouth finally finds her centre as her jaw drops in ecstasy, her hips inadvertently gyrating up towards his tongue as he laps her up, whilst the tips of his fingers caress the sensitive skin on the inside of her thighs. She can feel the guttural groan come from the back of her throat as her desperation for a release becomes overwhelming, her hips bucking up into his mouth hard as she leans up on an elbow, her other hand reaching down to push into the back of his head. She needs to gain back control, needs to give some kind of harsh instruction to keep this game going.

“Harder,” she grunts harshly, pushing his head into her centre, his nose and mouth buried so hard into her that she wonders how can he can breathe, how his mouth can still be swirling her juices around so expertly, how the suction of his lips on her nub can be so precise.

“Keep going,” she barks sharply, her head lolling to the side as she tries to keep her concentration, her centre so sensitive now that she feels like it’s going numb.

“Come on, Roman,” she goads angrily. “Make me come. Make me fucking scream,” she cries harshly as he renews his vigour, his tongue pressing rhythmically into her nub for another minute as she pants, grasping the back of his head solidly into her measured thrusts as she essentially fucks his face. She eventually falls over the edge with a scream, her eyes closing tightly, her elbow giving way under her as thrusts up into his face. She pushes her hand into the mattress, twisting her fingers into the covers as he slows his jaw against her, gently moving to her opening to lap up her juices whilst she lies there exhausted and panting.

He continues to slowly lick her, moving his wet caresses to her sensitive inner thigh, whilst she tries to catch her breath. When she looks down to him, she can see his loving kisses, the worship she asked of him as he simply waits there innocently for her further instruction and she can’t help the overwhelming love she feels building up inside of her.

“C’mere,” she croaks, as he quietly moves back up her body, lying on top of her as she takes his jaw in her hands, directing his mouth to hers as she offers a loving kiss, wrapping her arms around his shoulders as her tongue languidly caresses his.

He’s the one to pull back this time, his erection firm against her groin, as she looks into his soft eyes, pushing his hair back.

This man, only wishing to please her, only wanting to follow every order she administers, wanting to grant her every wish. She can feel her heart bursting with emotion, infatuation, passion, devotion, yearning, and most of all absolute love.

“Well it’s obvious you can do phase two,” she smiles, pecking his lips again.

“Was it okay?” He asks reticently, his eyes searching.

“Perfect,” she whispers tenderly as he grins widely, pecking her lips excitedly. “Just one more phase,” she adds lightly, running her hand down his cheekbone to his jaw and then under his chin.

He nods silently, his eyebrows knitting as he awaits the challenge.

“I think you’ve learned your lesson and earned your reward. So, you can speak. You can touch me. You can do whatever you want. Just fuck me,” she groans, pushing her lips hard into his. He smiles into the kiss, running his hands through her hair as he deepens his kiss, pushing her solidly into the mattress. Her legs come up to wrap around the back of his thighs, trying to push his hips further into hers, trying to encourage him to fill her, to release that remaining pent up arousal in her. She pushes her hands into the back of his head, one of them trailing across his shoulders, whilst one of his hand trails delicately down her side, reaching between them to grab his stiff throbbing erection, directing it to finally push into her.

He can’t hide the relief that washes over him from being buried in her, as he hears and feels the gasp she emits against his mouth; music to his motherfucking ears. He pulls back to look at her as he takes in her closed eyes, the small smile splayed through her open mouth, and he can’t think of a more beautiful fucking moment. He pulls out and pushes into her again slowly, grasping her hip firmly, as he watches her gasp of pleasure this time leaving her plump lips, her eyes opening at the end of it to stare into his eyes.

“I love you,” he breathes seriously, brushing the edge of his nose against hers as he pulls out and pushes back in deliciously again, watching her inhale again at the feeling, her mouth opening slowly the deeper he goes, her eyes closing softly.

“I love you, Rome. My wonderful Rome,” she whispers, kissing him harder as he increases his ministrations, pushing harder into her as he catches her gasps in his mouth.

“Oh, honey,” she groans, her nails scraping across his shoulders. “Yes,” she breathes, as he continues his pumping into her, inhaling every gasp, every word that pours out of her mouth.

“Faster, Rome. Yes, fuck. Faster,” she directs again with each word interrupted with a thrust as he ups his tempo, plunging into her quicker, his own release ready to come.

“Gerri,” he breathes, the sweat forming on his head as he moves his kisses down to her perfect jaw, biting vigorously at the bone below her ear. “Fuck, yes. Yes, yes, fuck,” he strains out as he feels the build-up reaching its peak.

“That’s it, baby. Right there. God yes,” she grunts, as one of his hands harshly press up her body, groping her breast before he takes her hand from behind his neck, pushing it into the bed before threading his fingers through hers, pushing it into the mattress as she moans even louder.

He feels himself exploding, every ounce of seed he had within him spilling into her with each thrust, feeling her eventually tightening around him, her scream filling the room just as he spills his final load into her. He falls exhausted against her shoulder, her legs tightening around his, her heels digging into his backside, spurring his hips further on through the waves of her release.

He feels her relaxing around him after she’s ridden the wave of her orgasm, her hand in his loosening, her heels trailing down his thighs to rest on the backs of his knees as he allows his softening dick to slip out to rest against her.

“Holy fuck,” he groans, pecking her neck as he buries his face in it, whilst her chest continues heaving.

He thinks it’s the most intense orgasm he’s ever had, the euphoria buzzing throughout his entire body as he lays spent across her, his body likely a dead weight on her though he can’t bring himself to roll away. Her hand lightly trails his warm, sticky back, running up to the hair at the nape of his neck.

“Jesus Christ,” she sighs. “Is that what I was missing out on over the phone all those times?”

“Nah,” he groans. “They were nothing on this.”

She turns her head to the side, tightening her grip on his hand again as she squeezes their threaded fingers. She offers a kiss to his cheekbone, his head attempting to turn more so they can share a few light drained kisses.

“Do you feel like you’ve learned your lesson?” She whispers with a giggle.

“Nah, I think we need to play again,” he jokes as she smiles, offering another kiss.

“I wasn’t too harsh?” She whispers quietly.

“You kidding?” He huffs. “That whole thing was fucking hot. Gerri the Dom is top tier,” he divulges as she laughs, pushing his unruly hair out of his face again.

“Do you want her around permanently then?” She laughs.

“Nah,” he whispers. “I prefer my Gerri. Caring Gerri. She’s my favourite. Dom Gerri can make an appearance on occasion then.”

She snorts laughing at the suggestion.

“Oh yeah,” she agrees sarcastically. “You just let me know which I should be at your whim then. I’ll make sure she’s there then,” she offers facetiously with a laugh.

“Great,” he groans, burrowing into her neck. “Mail order Gerri.”

She hums, hugging him closer, closing her eyes herself as she sinks into the mattress.

“You really did do a good job today,” she admis. “Your charm shone through, even if you were a bit impetuous. Though you do need to be more careful with going off script,” she tells him seriously. “Throw Karolina a bone or two. Have a bit more empathy for her situation.”

“I know,” he whines. “I will.”

She hums quietly, running her foot up the back of his calf as breathes deeply.

“I think you did a fucking amazing job,” he praises. “Don’t know why you thought you’d suck. You’ve never been shit at anything. Obviously, you were gonna kill it.”

“Maybe that’s because I had you to talk me off the ledge beforehand,” she reasons, caressing his back. “Maybe it’s because I had you to take the questions you were good at and I got to take the clinical ones I’m good at.”

“I think you could do them if you had to,” he reasons.

“Maybe,” she ponders. “But maybe we have our strengths and our weaknesses and balance each other out. Rockstar and the Molewoman,” she smiles up to the ceiling.

“Mm,” he hums. “Maybe.”

“Why would I take the uncomfortable questions anyway when you could just give an angry challenging answer and cause an uproar,” she teases, reaching to peck his head.

“Fuck them,” he groans. “About time someone told them to shut the fuck up.”

“I can’t believe you told the public to keep their fucking opinions to themselves,” she chuckles, shaking her head, her whole body shaking in mirth.

“Well, they fucking should. Morons,” he groans, bringing their joined hands down to her stomach as he kisses her neck again.

“And what was that about me being scared away?” She challenges, looking around to him. “I told you I’m not going anywhere.”

“I was trying to make a joke,” he admits. “Thought I’d maybe gone in too hard with the threats.”

“You’re just a protective little puppy, aren’t you?” She asks in a baby voice, looking around to him. “Not disobedient at all,” she smiles pecking his lips.

“I’d do anything for you,” he whispers, leaning in to kiss her more soundly, his fingers weaving through her hair to push it back from her face. “Anything,” he mumbles as she smiles into the kiss, pulling him closer.

“Ditto.”

Chapter Text

When the story breaks it turns out to be less hectic than they anticipated. Though the press was parked outside the building, they had been pushed into a cordoned off area by extra security surrounding the entrance as they awaited the moment they could capture the newest couple.

Karolina remains with Roman and Gerri for the majority of the day, highlighting the numerous offers coming in from various news outlets looking for further commentary, while pleads for more interviews from other popular magazines present themselves.

They spend the best part of the morning watching the different coverage portrayed of their relationship; further scrutinising the different opinions that are being thrown around. Cyd had been prepared for this since last week, a clearly positive spin thrown on the newsflash in ATN, very little commentary of the liberality of the whole thing; an attempt to prevent antagonising their viewers. Most of the other libertarian news channels report it favourably; except PGM of course which is where most of their focus remains. For once, their reports on such a story remain more critical, not that they hadn’t expected that. They delve into the questions that they had expected into the ability of Waystar to function now that their CEO and COO were in private cahoots. They even get the new PGM CEO to swiftly appear with their anchors to join the debate, watching as the slimy looking cunt lists all the possible corruption that could now ensue with this new development as Roman yells expletives at the television whilst he paces Gerri’s office.

Karolina placates him by rhyming off all arguments against the points the CEO is making with a rolling of her eyes. She simply declares it playground bullshit whilst keeping her attention on the debate that has already blasted its way through Twitter as it apparently always does when a May-December story breaks.

Gerri, however, remains silent, her eyes trained on the stock prices, waiting for the possible fluctuations that could eventuate from all this doubt. Roman, not mollified in the slightest, aggressively raises the idea of them appearing on ATN to counter all the cockwaffling this fucking schmuck is spouting on PGM, quickly shot down by Karolina who cites how they had already explained all that away in the interview, her mind already reeling on creating a possible counterattack of writing a narrative of PGM as an ageist and sexist corporation in their attack on mainly Gerri.

The rest of the afternoon passes calmly, a meeting with Joan as they discuss the newly anticipated rollercoaster opening next month in the Florida park. Roman absently listens to her rhyming off the inspections that are yet to take place, the highlights of the confirmation report from the American Society for Testing and Materials, though his attention is firmly on scrolling through the ongoing commentary that is sending his phone buzzing. The incoming texts from people he hasn’t heard from in years send a sticky shudder down his spine when cringeworthy comments like you sneaky devil commandeer his notification centre.

He re-enters the conversation at the mention of his name, Karolina suggesting that maybe he and Gerri should be there for the opening day of the ride, a PR stunt to show them together in a positive light.

“What? You want one of those fucking photos of us on a log flume with Zip-a-dee-doo-dah underneath it?” He scoffs, looking over to Gerri with a taunting quirk of his eyebrows as Joan giggles alongside him. “Might look pretty cute on the mantle, huh Ger?”

“I’m not getting on a log flume,” she deadpans, folding her hands in front of her mouth seriously.

“I didn’t say a log flume,” Karolina laughs, shaking her head.

“Oh, you’ll have fun!” Joan declares. “This one is supposed to be fifth fastest in the world!”

“I don’t do rollercoasters either,” Gerri states firmly, her eyes never leaving Karolina.

“Fuck up,” he laughs. “Are you afraid of rollercoasters?”

“No,” Gerri offers casually. “I’m not. I’m just not doing it.”

“Okay, well no one even suggested you set foot on a ride. Just an opportunity to show face. A united front,” Karolina shrugs, as Roman giggles under his breath, all of the possibilities whirling in his head of cheesy photos with Gerri eating a huge fuck off stick of candyfloss in her uppity business suit, as he piggybacks the World’s Biggest Turkey and puts him in a chokehold.

“I’ll think about it,” Gerri shuts down. “Now, Joan, what about the daily inspection audits? I assume their up-to-date and complete.”

“Of course,” Joan says confidently, rifling through her folder as Roman offers a smirk to Gerri.

****

 

The sea of press is still there when they’re ready to leave later that evening, their energy pulsating as Gerri leads the way out of the building, Roman close on her tail as they both become suffocatingly walled in by their six-foot fucking body-building security team, blocking all vision of anything in front of them. The photographers become insistent though; reporter’s firing a million questions at them, breaking past the barriers to push into the gigantean security guards, endeavouring to pick up any kind of commentary by steadfastly reaching their phones and microphones towards Gerri or Roman’s mouth.

No comment is what Karolina had advised, Gerri keeping her head bowed, her eyes glued to her feet to keep herself steady, the hopes of preventing an embarrassing collapse down the stairs she has to manoeuvre blindly.

Roman grimaces behind her, pissed off at being shoved around; still unable to fathom the amount of fucking bullshit they’re having to go through just because they revealed a fucking relationship, doesn’t understand at all why they give so much of a shit.

Out of nowhere, a scuffle develops when one too many photographers start to get a little too persistent, a domino effect of toppling over each other as they try to reach over the security guards’ shoulder, knocking roughly into said security guard and ultimately Gerri. Roman sees the whole thing in slow motion; the security guard’s towering form pushing hard into Gerri’s side as she stumbles over, his heart leaping into his throat as he instinctively grasps her waist from behind to compass her. She eventually catches herself with his aid, standing up straight with a frustrated huff as his hold remains to keep her steady.

“Fucking watch it!” He shouts furiously, shoving one of the photographers aggressively backward with his forearm before turning back to her with concern.

“Are you okay?” He asks gently, his breath soft against her cheek, his fingertips digging into her waist as she fixes her coat lapels flusteredly in front of her, taking a minute to collect herself.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she says so quietly he almost can’t hear her over the incessant racket of the questions still being fired at them. He turns around to sneer at the photographers, locking eyes with a reporter as they have the good grace to offer an apologetic gaze before ramming their phone near his mouth. His fury rises involuntarily when he realises they literally don’t give a shit that they nearly just decked her, their only interest to get a fucking headline.

“Back the fuck off!” He roars, moving quickly around her, taking her hand in the process, threading their fingers together as she gawps at him; the press having a field-day with his fury. “Come on,” he directs, protectively leading the way, tightening his hand around hers as he squeezes it reassuringly, persevering through the crowd, the security team keeping pace alongside him.

“Rome,” she whispers as he continues his charge, checking back on her every few seconds to make sure they hadn’t mauled her and snatched her arm clear off. If he needs to brawl with someone he fucking will; he’ll start a motherfucking battle royal right here and take no prisoners – scandalous press story be damned.

“We’re almost there,” he assures, the car only a few feet away as the front security guy opens the door, their team creating a wall around the opening, Roman pulling Gerri by the waist in front of him as she ducks into the car, he following her instantly.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He asks her with a frown, searching her face as she sits with her eyes lightly closed.

“Yeah,” she sighs, looking around to him with a small smile. “I’m fine,” she promises, pulling her phone out of her pocket.

“Fucking assholes,” he groans, looking through the window to the crowd disappearing as the car rolls away. “Where the fuck do they get off?”

They spend the car journey in silence, Roman looking back to the comments on his phone, fuelling his already cruddy mood with each doubt into the legitimacy of them as a couple whilst Gerri mutely answers her emails, clearly ignoring his mood.

They spot more vultures parked outside the apartment, waiting for any scraps they were willing to throw, and it’s never made him more thankful for the underground carpark and her decision to stay here. Fuck knows what it would be like at her apartment.

She bitches about not being able to go to her usual gym when they’re upstairs, the risk too great for her to go unnecessarily cavorting around the city just so she could have a half an hour on a treadmill, not that he would let her after that shitshow outside anyway. He suggests buying her equipment for the apartment so she can do it here, settling on the offer of the gym in the apartment building when she fobs off his dramatic extravagance. She’s more open to that though she’s quick to declare how she isn’t thrilled that she’s going to have to be accompanied by a guard waiting outside the door for her. He takes her complaining as an affirmative, sends her over the code to the gym with an eyeroll, telling her to use the pool instead if the equipment is subpar by her standards.

“Stop looking at the comments,” she warns him through the bathroom door before she heads downstairs as he pulls a face at the door before lightly denying he ever had looked at anything, locking the phone harshly before he strips off.

He forgoes any exercise, more interested in going for a shower and sulking on the couch with a bag of chips instead of doing anything productive.

He’s balls deep in an investigation about the Zodiac killer when she arrives back an hour later with the slamming of the door. The television is immediately muted, the bag of chips crammed down the side of the couch so she doesn’t bitch at him about ruining his appetite for dinner.

“How’d it go?” He asks standing up and flicking the crumbs from his t-shirt.

“Fine!” She floats from the kitchen. “I could get used to the gym being downstairs. I would usually have to sit in traffic for twenty minutes to and from mine before I can get home for dinner; forty minutes from here. Means I can fit it in more since I can just jump downstairs and still have plenty of time to get some work done.”

He walks into the kitchen finally, sees her standing behind the island with her hair tied up, the curls of the sweaty hair around her red blotched face, as she gulps a glass of water like she’d just crawled out of the Sahara.

“Thirsty?” He laughs, leaning on the island. “Didn’t you take water with you?”

“I didn’t bring my water bottle from my place. I’ll get another,” she waves off, as she turns her back to him to rinse the glass out whilst his eyes go wide at the vision before him.

“They have top-range equipment, you know,” she approves absently as the water cascades across the glass. “Met a nice woman from the 12th floor too.”

“Wow, wow. Hold the fuck up,” he says holding his hands up high, while she twists her neck to look over her shoulder with a frown. “Get the fuck around here.”

“What?” She asks exasperated, trying to understand what could cause such a reaction.

“You,” he confirms pointing at her. “You in your cute fucking gym outfit,” he almost shouts, throwing his hands up in her direction. “And your fucking yoga pants,” he says as he walks around the island to look at her since she apparently refuses to be beckoned. “And sneakers? You have fucking sneakers?” He asks incredulously as she rolls her eyes, considering him with a smirk.

“Yes, I have fucking sneakers and you’ve seen them before,” she groans, turning back around to continue rinsing the glass.

“Fuck Gerri,” he groans, sidling up closer to her. “Those fucking yoga pants though,” he mumbles as he presses up against her back, his hand trailing across her ass.

“Correct. They are yoga pants. Do you want me to get you a pair in your size?” She quips, ignoring him as his hands trail to her hips. She peaks behind her when she hears another roughish groan come from him, realises he’s crouching down behind her, studying her ass at eye level like it’s a priceless piece of art.

“What the fuck’s in these? Are they, like, padded?” He asks touching the flesh of ass before his fingers run down to the back of her thighs.

“No,” she protests slapping his hands away, turning around as he loses his balance, toppling back onto his behind. “You little shit.”

He dramatically falls onto his back, sprawled across the floor, his arms lying out widely on either side of him, his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he closes his eyes.

“I’m dead,” he explains to her silent form. “You’ve killed me. It’s too fucking hot to bear. It’s radiating off you,” he babbles trying to keep his tongue stuck to his cheek. She shakes her head, stretching for the dish towel, delicately drying the glass off, deciding not to respond before he springs back up to look up at her.

“Do you have any idea how fuckable you look?” He asks spreading his legs out, his eyes creeping up her body, devouring her as he leans back on his hands whilst she simply raises her eyebrow, her eyes concentrated on her movements of the glass. “You should work out every day. I might even come watch you if it’s hotter than right now.”

“I work out alone. However, I’m thrilled you appreciate the outfit since that was clearly my ultimate goal rather than exercising for an hour,” she deadpans before stepping over one of his legs, reaching to the cupboard to put the glass back then making her way towards the kitchen door.

“Where’re you going?” He protests, climbing onto his knees as he starts crawling towards her.

“I’m going to shower,” she throws over her shoulder, whilst he shoots up onto his feet, following her like the North star.

“Fuck that,” he objects. “Get back here.”

He runs towards her, sliding across the hard wood floor on his socks as he crashes into her side, his arms instantly locking her around the waist as she snickers through her protests. His hold is firm as he peppers kisses to her neck, the taste of salt mixed with her skin as she tries to bat him away.

“Get off me you little twerp. I don’t have time to indulge you. I still have too much work to do,” she fusses fictitiously, attempting to turn in his arms, straining yet failing to disconnect her neck from his lips.

“Do your work later,” he mumbles into her neck as she wraps her arms around his shoulders, her eyes closing as the sensations begin to spark through her.

“I’ve already had my workout today,” she quips, darting her neck away as her eyes meet his suspiciously. “Why do you smell weird?” She frowns as he attempts to evade her.

“Push it to the max, Kellman,” he grins, pecking her lips. “Get sweaty with me.”

“I’m already sweaty. Hence the shower,” she explains with a peck back, her fingers trailing through the hair at his neck before she licks her lips. “Did you eat those barbecue chips when I was down there?”

He evades again, pecking the underside of her jaw as she lets out a small gasp.

“Wash away that sweatiness as we get sweaty then,” he suggests before pulling back to offer a quirked eyebrow. “Two birds one stone. Genius.”

“Defeats the purpose,” she reasons.

“Help me work off those chips then,” he proposes as she gawps in surprise, cut off by a hard kiss. He walks them backwards towards the bedroom, random pecks to her lips accompanying as his hands explore her rear end again.

“Roman, just because we live together now, doesn’t mean we need to have sex every day,” she warns with a grin against his mouth, her arms tight around his shoulders.

“That’s exactly what it means,” he mumbles as his kisses trail down to her jaw before he impishly smacks her ass suggestively.

“Don’t do that!” She warns pushing him away at arm’s length before tapping the back of his head instinctively, her eyes completely serious whilst he chuckles, moving back to her neck sheepishly.

“That’s the whole point in this moving in malarky,” he whispers against her skin. “It’s the biggest advantage. Getting you all to myself, all the time.”

“It’s not prudent nor sustainable,” she explains, trying to sound serious though falters as her voice hitches when he reaches that spot at her pulse point that drives her to insanity.

He runs his hand up the back of her t-shirt, petting the expanse of her spine, the other reaching into the back of her underwear to rub soothing circles over the part of her derriere he maltreated as her serene breath brushes his ear.

“You were right,” he mumbles into her neck. “Nothing padded about these pants.”

He nuzzles his way back to her lips, noting how her mouth instantly responds to him, her eyes closed, her grip at the back of his t-shirt firm, and he think he might just have her hooked.

“Tell me to stop then,” he whispers against her lips, “and I’ll stop.”

There’s a moment when he thinks she might as she stares at him, her chest heaving though she tries and fails to control it.

“We’re working after,” she states firmly, her most convincing boardroom negotiation tone on display though the harshness in her visage that usually accompanies it is absent.

“Scout’s honour,” he promises with a peck.

“You weren’t a scout,” she argues with a breathy peck in return.

“Slime puppies honour,” he grins in return before she pounces on him, her tongue assaulting his mouth as she aggressively begins pulling his t-shirt up his back.

 

****

 

The next few days roll into one as the debate of the different aspects of the revelation of this relationship continues. The commencement of the investigation from the board into their relationship also has the executive floor buzzing as employees start to be brought in one by one to be interviewed; Cyd and their two assistants pulled in, Karolina and Frank scheduled for tomorrow. She still hasn’t heard from the board regarding the CEO decision and she has to admit it’s starting to worry her. Though the tactical bullshit the board are pulling has been part of the corporate fuckery for so many years, she finds herself a little more unsettled about it this time. The strategic wait for the final determination from the public after the debate is finally over is what it all lies on, but she doesn’t know how much of an approval rating the board need. She chases it away with the piling workload she has, the positive feedback from Karolina that the approval ratings are more 80% today giving her comfort.

She doesn’t get back to the apartment until just after six, a meeting with Frank regarding the new cruises HR policies holding her up whilst Roman had taken a meeting uptown.

“Hey,” she shouts, listening to her own echo in hallway when she sees his coat hanging up on the stand, dumping her bags onto the couch there.  

“Babe?” She hears float to her from the bedroom alongside his footsteps, bringing a small smile to her lips as she shrugs her own coat off whilst kicking her treacherous shoes off.

“Hey,” she purrs when she sees him, taking in his crisp form as he attempts to do up his tie, noting he has different suit pants on from what he put on this morning, his blue check suit now on – her favourite suit. His aftershave permeates her nostrils as she realises, he’s well and truly groomed, the absence of his usual rough exterior at the end of a long day, his hair newly slicked, his stubble trimmed.

“Hey,” he smiles, moving forward to offer a brief kiss before his concentration goes back to his tie. “Did you see we sparked a talking point on the View today?” He tittles as he continues his war.

“The debate of older women taking up with younger men. You’d think they’d be over it by now. It’s not like we’re the first.”

“See from what I heard it was also about the expectations workplaces have on not getting into relationships with co-workers. Maybe I should go on and give my two cents. Jesus fucking Christ,” he groans. “I can’t get this fucking tie.”

“Are we going somewhere?” She asks with an exasperated laugh, the thought of leaving this apartment after the day she has had absolutely harrowing; the invitation of a scolding hot bath before she looks over Frank’s report too inviting.

“No,” he mumbles absently to her relief, before undoing the tie and throwing it to the side as he stamps his foot like a child. She can’t help the small laugh that leaves her as she pads towards him, her aching nylon clad feet cool against tiles under her when she takes his tie in hand. “Thank you,” he huffs, watching her concentrated eyes through her rims. “No, tonight’s the night I’m going out with Dex. I told you about this.”

“Dex,” she thinks aloud, finishing the tie off, patting it before she moves back to pick her bags up. “Is that the one you were in Moscow with when you tried to insight a riot?”

“No,” he tsks, following her as she makes her way into the bedroom. “That was Eli. Dexter is the one I went to military school with. Nearly got onto the rugby squad for England until they found out he was pumping himself with the roids. Ended up going to work for daddy’s business in insurance.”

She gives an acknowledging hum over her shoulder as she throws the bags onto the bed, throwing her suit jacket off as he makes his way into the bathroom to continue his interrupted routine.

“I remember him now. I just don’t remember that you were going,” she offers as starts to unbutton her shirt.  

“I did tell you,” he ventures apprehensively, making his way back into the bedroom, fiddling with a cufflink he’s trying to secure.

“I don’t doubt that. My memory is just fizzed right now.”

“It’s just a dinner. I don’t even want to go. I can stay home if you want?”

“No, you should go,” she offers, pulling her shirt out of her skirt. “It’ll be good for you to get out and socialise.”

“You say that like I’m going on a playdate,” he laughs, putting the second cufflink on.

“From what I know about you and what I know about Dexter, it could pan out that way,” she challenges. “Just stay out of trouble.”

“Yes, mommy,” he throws back in the most childish voice he can muster. “So, what are you going to do then? Rifle through my drawers? Rub one out to a financial report?”

“Don’t project your sexual fantasies onto me,” she quirks as she undoes her last button. “Plus, a whole night to myself without you angling to fuck me? Whatever else could possibly fill up my agenda now?” She teases as he watches her grin, pulling the shirt off her back and placing it lightly onto the bed before hiking her skirt up to rid herself of her cursed nylons.

“I mean, I can do that right now if it makes you feel better?” He jests with a roguish smile. “I have no qualms about keeping spex in the Dex waiting.”

“Absolutely not,” she protests adamantly as she makes her way to her vanity, pulling her earrings off on her journey. “I wouldn’t want to keep your old pal waiting. I’ll just have to suffer in silence. Say a prayer, read the bible.”

He laughs out loud at that, straightening his cuffs.

“A whole day without sex,” she hums, “will your little heart stop from the shock of it?”

He saunters over to her, angling up behind her to kiss her shoulder, his hands running down her silky upper arms.

“Now you mention it, it just might,” he whispers against her warm skin. “Feel like you have to now or my death will be on your conscience for life.”

She smiles before twisting back to look at him over her shoulder, her breath hot against his lips.

“We could, but I wouldn’t want to mess up your perfect hair,” she smiles fluttering her eyelashes before skirting away from him, unzipping the back of her skirt as she walks towards the bathroom.

“What the fuck’s wrong with my hair?” He scowls, ducking down to look into her vanity mirror.

“Nothing,” she assures from the bathroom. “That’s why I wouldn’t dare mess it up.”

He pats it once more for good measure, fixing his cuffs briefly before standing up tall and posing, considering his reflection.

“So, where is it you’re going?” She shouts from the bathroom.

“Not sure. Some bar in Soho. He picked it. But I’m fucking starving, so it better not be some fuckin raggedy assed place that only serves chips,” he shouts back frustrated as he sneers at his reflection. “Maria left you something on the stove.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine!” She shouts back. “Just don’t drink so much that you come into the office like a deflated balloon tomorrow.”

“I won’t,” he whines quietly as he turns back to pick up his suit jacket, hesitates when he notes her leaning against the bathroom door with her robe on, simply observing him.

“What?” He asks, pulling his suit jacket on.

“You look very handsome,” she observes gently. “Very dashing,” she smiles, pushing off the doorframe before sauntering towards him, pulling on his lapels so the jacket sits straighter, his hands instinctively on her hips.

He hums, flirtatiously quirking his eyebrows.

“Do you find me irresistible?”

She offers a sarcastic twisting of her lips, continuing her attention on his jacket before she pats his chest to conclude her ministrations. “Lock up your daughters New York City,” she punctuates with an assured peck to his lips.

“I feel bad,” he groans as his hands stroke her hips. “What’re you going to do all night? Maybe I should stay home.”

“Are you kidding?” She scoffs. “The last thing I wanted to do was go out tonight. I have a date with a bath and a few reports before I can finally get an early night for the first time in a decade. Go out and have fun. Don’t worry about me.”

“I won’t be out long,” he promises, fiddling with the back of her robe tie as he stares at her inviting collar bone.

“You don’t have a curfew, Rome,” she laughs as she strokes the back of his neck. “Come back whenever. Just don’t wake me or it won’t end well for any of us,” she smiles as she pecks his lips again.

“You’re the coolest. You know that?”

“Wow,” she sighs. “Can you get that put on a plaque so I can hang it up next to my diplomas?”

“As you wish,” he smiles as he slaps her ass mischievously.

“Roman,” she warns bitingly, pushing him away as he scuttles towards the bedroom door laughing. “Do that again and see what happens!”

She hears him howling with laughter from the hallway as she walks to the bedroom door.

“I mean it!” She shouts, reverberating off the hallway walls. “I’ll partner you up with Frank until he retires or I bludgeon you! Just try me!”

“Love you!”

“Give me strength,” she whispers under her breath.

 

****

 

The bar Dex picks is actually quite swanky, a cocktail lounge is what he calls it in his English accent. Its extremely ornate, the definite highlight being the ostentatious hand crafted wooden bar that he’s only seen in the likes of Europe, however it’s biggest downfall is that it’s filled with narcissistic socialites that he has no interest in learning any of the names of, though Dex has plenty of interest in flirting with.

He learns that Dex just split up with his wife, Sofia; caught fucking a girl that slid into his DMs after the bit on the side told the wife he wouldn’t leave – a tale as old as time.

Roman tries to hold his concentration, listen to how the whole thing was just an unfortunate accident where Dex’s dick just happened to slip into the girl’s cunt, yada yada yada, but instead he finds himself focused on the huge print of the Rat Pack above Dex’s head. Well the main Rat Pack members – Dean, Sammy, and Frank. He always liked Frank best; remembered when he heard the whole story about how he was obsessed with Ava Gardner, felt for the guy. He remembered Scottish Moira listening to his songs, recalling how she told him about how Frank was connected to the mafia and that Johnny in the Godfather was based on him. He’s pretty sure his dad likes— liked— likes Frank Sinatra too, has a vague memory of him wilfully dancing with his mom at some wedding when he was a kid to some croony assed tune.

He’s called back to the attention of the conversation when he hears Dex saying his name, wills himself to think up some response that isn’t a dig because even though he really doesn’t care about Dex’s conquests, he’s unwilling to give the guy a pat on the back for his infidelity. He knows what the idea of that feels like now, can’t help but feel for Sofia, not that ever considered her before, and no way in hell was he going to praise the guy for it.  

“What?” Roman asks, finally looking back down to him, straining to hear in this rambunctious room. “Yeah, that’s awful dude,” he offers sarcastically. “Like, Sofia should totally have been okay with you sticking your dick in other girls and bringing home chlamydia.”

“No, her name was Claudia,” Dex confirms, as Roman rolls his eyes, trying not to face palm. “That’s not what I was saying anyway. I was asking about your new squeeze. I saw the video.”

He perks up at that, his back already up at this prick’s referral to Gerri as a new fucking squeeze; turning feral as he takes a long swig of his drink to calm himself.

“She’s not a fucking squeeze,” he snipes aggravated.

“Okay then,” Dex laughs. “Your new lady. What’s that all about? I saw she’s older. Looking like a fucking MILF. You getting her to teach you some new tricks in the bedroom? Eh?”

Roman grimaces at the suggestive wink Dex gives him, remembering exactly why he’s absolutely okay with this worst cunt living in London and only seeing him once every few years.

“Don’t call her a fucking MILF. It’s disrespectful,” he warns quickly, the thought of Gerri’s worst nightmare of how she would be perceived evident directly before him.

However, as Dex throws his hands up in surrender, Roman tries to bite back his defence, twists his scowl into a smile because he actually gets the chance to talk about Gerri to someone.

“She’s actually pretty cool. It’s pretty serious and the age thing means fuck all so,” he shrugs, lifting his drink back to his lips.

“Yeah, but like how is it, you know, in the sack?” Dex pushes as Roman’s sneer returns, this fucknut ruining his first chance to gloat. “I was with this older woman like, fuck, it must have been like eight years ago?”

Roman does the math in his head, remembers Dex getting with Sofia at least twelve years ago, remembers being at his wedding maybe eight years ago.

“She was a fucking vixen man,” Dex laughs dirtily. “She did this fucking thing when she was giving a blowjob when she would like take your balls and like swirl her tongue—.”

“Okay! Thank you!” Roman shouts quickly, bracing his hands in front of him as a small gag involuntarily takes over his body when images of Dex start to form in his head. “Very nice. Don’t need the details.”

“Anyway,” Dex shrugs, taking a sip of his drink. “Took me years to teach Sofia. Even more fucking annoying that I’m going to have to teach a whole new girl.”

“Sounds nightmarish,” Roman deadpans, looking to his watch, wondering if he could just slip the fuck out now.

“Maybe you’ve got the right idea. Maybe I should raise the age. Get some fucking loaded divorcee from Fifth Avenue,” he says quirking his eyebrows suggestively.

“Uhu,” Roman hums, bucking his teeth out as his whole-body squirms.

“Another?” Dex asks, already standing as he drains the remainder of his drink.

“Oh, I would but ya know,” Roman groans. “Got the old ball and chain at home now so I really should, ya know, skedaddle.”

“Fuck that,” Dex protests. “You’ve only had two. It’s my round! Be right back,” he says already walking away as Roman flares his nostrils, looking up to the print he had been studying earlier.

“Don’t look at me like that Dean,” he says aloud, doesn’t notice the table next to him nervously glancing over. “You’d be the same if you were with this dude.”

He pulls his phone out, sends a quick message to Gerri.

Roman:

Why didn’t you remind me that this guy is a cum stain on the subway seat of society?

He delves into his emails, archives the ones from Ray that he knows are pieces of trash, but that Gerri cautioned him that he was actually not allowed to delete, just as message from her comes in.

 

Gerri:

More fun this way.

 

He can’t help the laugh that escapes as he imagines her sitting on their comfy assed couch, sipping a martini, chucking at his misfortune.

Roman:

You’re the worst. Kiss goodbye to your early night. I’m coming home after this drink and I’m going to pester you into the early fucking hours.

 

Gerri:

So, like every other night? Can’t wait.

 

Roman:

You’re going to pay.

 

Gerri:

Believe it when I see it.

 

Roman:

🍑 👏

 

Gerri:

Try it. I dare you.

 

He sends a love heart emoji back just as he hears a scuffle behind him, Dexter’s roaring laugh invading his ears with some feminine giggles alongside it, eliciting a groan from Roman as he catches onto what the fuck is about to happen.

“Roman,” he hears Dexter say as he twists around, his eyes going completely wide with shock. “This is Clara and her friend Tabitha. They’re going to join us.”

Tabitha towers above him, her visage stunned though she recovers quickly, quicker than him anyway.

“Roman and I have already met actually,” she offers with a smirk.

He had regretted not messaging her. It had ended amicably, though he thought they would have remained closer in the aftermath considering how compatible they had been in many ways. However, life had got in the way then so much time had passed that it had become awkward. She hadn’t really messaged either, the last he had heard she’d taken up with a yoga instructor who owned some retreat somewhere up state. However, it hits him that he really should have broken the news about Gerri to her, hadn’t really even considered that he should until now, wonders now how she did take it when it broke.

“Hiya,” he offers awkwardly as Dexter and Clara shuffle into the couched seat by the wall, Tabitha forced to take a seat next to him. He looks around awkwardly to Dexter, he and Clara already flirting; leaving him to sink in this holey fucking boat this motherfucker had built.

He looks around to Tabitha, offering an awkward giggle as she simply looks comfortably down to her cocktail, taking a small sip from the tiny straw.

“So,” he ventures awkward. “How are you?”

“I’m great,” she huffs, swirling the straw around in her glass. “How have you been?”

“Oh, you know me,” he blurts, pulling a face. “Double dutching through Waystar like a fucking baby elephant with an extra-large Louis Vuitton of neurosis.”

“Exciting,” she deadpans with a raising of her eyebrows.

“And what about you? Still with the yoga ranch chick?”

“Oh no,” Tabitha laughs. “That was like several fucks ago. No, I’m single for now. Just ferreting around the city to see who catches my fancy. Clara over there is on the hunt though,” she says nodding over to her friend cosied up to Dexter.

“Yeah, well,” Roman huffs before lowering his voice, edging closer to Tabitha. “You might want to get your friend to put her rifle back in the fucking holder for this one because he’s a bona fide, top class snake. Comes with his own poisonous venom warning and antidote shot if he bites.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah,” he nods. “He may have been through even more girls than even you have.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t go that far. My number has drastically risen in this past year, even given my hiatus with you.”

“Aww,” Roman offers cutely. “Proud of you.”

She lets out a small giggle at that, looks around to Clara as Roman’s finally exhales the breath he feels like he’s been holding since he saw her in front of him.

“Clara knows what she’s getting herself into. She’s a fox. She’ll end up playing him. Just you watch,” Tabitha smirks, swirling her glass around absently as he smiles turning his attention back to her.

“So, what have you been doing, Tabs? I’ve missed you,” he offers purely, notes the softening of her eyes at that.

“Not much. My dad died.”

“Fuck,” he groans. “When?”

“Just after Christmas. Not a big deal. You know it wasn’t exactly amicable at best.”

“Yeah, but still. That must’ve been brutal.”

“What was brutal was that I had to go out to Ohio to deal with my mom,” she sighs.

“Madam Satan?” He laughs.

“The queen takes the throne now the king is dead,” she says lightly. “Turns out she doesn’t know fucking anything. You know the type. Mid-western housewife who let their husbands handle the finances and security policies while they concentrate on keeping the china cabinet dust free.”

“My favourite kind of woman,” he quips.

“Yeah, well Jenny and I had to try and go through it all with her. Try and direct her through everything that needed taken care of while she berated us for our life choices, so it was delightful.”

“How is Jenny?”

“She’s fine. Couldn’t hack it as long as I could. Went back to LA a week after the funeral. I only lasted a few days more before I hit the road.”

“Yeah, but it must have been good to at least see your baby sister. You always talked about how much you missed her.”

“Yeah, it was good to have an ally, just shitty circumstances.”

“No,” he groans. “I get it.”

“What about you? Fuck you’ve had a year. Kendall? Your dad? I watched all the coverage. Pretty fucking savage on Ken’s part.”

“Yeah, that’s just the fucking half of it,” he huffs unsure which parts of the backstabbing of Logan Roy story Gerri would be okay with him divulging, if any of it.

“I was going to send you a message when the court case started but I didn’t know if I should. I was still at my mom’s when it was all starting. Seems stupid now.”

“Nah, I was the same. Life goes on. Shit comes up.”

He had forgotten how easy it was with Tabs. The ability to just talk about shit and how easy she just accepted shit and shrugged it off. She was the most chill person he had ever met, and he fucking missed that.

“And Gerri?” She huffs, Roman picking his glass up quickly to buy him some time, wait her out. “What’s all that about? Is it a ploy or?”

He finds that he’s surprised that he doesn’t have the usual fury that usually erupts at the suggestion since he’d almost thrown his phone off the roof of the Waystar skyscraper when he had read too many of the comments yesterday. Tabitha seemed to genuine about it to be conniving in her question.

“No,” he says simply, concentrating on his glass before looking up to her. “It’s legitimate. I— I fucking love her,” he laughs as she smiles, taken aback.

“And her?” She asks sceptically. “Is it a ploy for her? Some Waystar mumbo jumbo trick to fuck someone up?”

“Nah,” he almost whispers as he shakes his head. “It’s real, Tabs. And trust me, I’m more stunned than anyone that it’s legit.”

“I can’t deny I’m flabbergasted. I thought it was some ruse. Only because it’s Gerri. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve lucked the fuck out because she’s a fucking siren.”

“Oh my god!” Roman shouts excitedly. “That’s what I always say!”

“But like she’s smart as fuck as well. She always had that closed off, poker faced, hand close to her chest thing going though. I never would have thought she would have got involved with a Roy, especially not a clusterfuck like you. I thought you would have been beneath her.”

“Me neither,” he says quietly, swirling his own drink around. “She’s not really like that though. She’s, like, soft. She gets me. Not that you didn’t.”

“I’m not offended, Rome,” Tabitha laughs, taking another sip of her drink.

“No, I know. We never could have worked anyway because like I couldn’t do the sex. But like I feel like completely free, in all aspects with her. Like so fucking liberated. It’s not like anything I ever felt before.”

“Aww, you found your lobster,” Tabitha says cutely as he grimaces.

“No, fuck that. This isn’t fucking that shitty show. No. It’s like… just… perfect.”

“And the sex thing? How’s that?”

He hesitates, Gerri’s cardinal rule in his head, feels like he owes it to Tabitha to emphasise how much Gerri has helped fix his fucked up little head though since it was the one thing he could never offer Tabs. He decides he can confirm his own part and leave Gerri out.

“It works,” he shrugs as though he doesn’t understand it himself. “I can like do it… like a normo.”

“Aww, good for you! Look at you! All grown up and losing your virginity,” Tabitha says scuffing his hair up.

“Hey, fuck off,” he says pushing her hand away and slicking his hair back into place. “And I wasn’t a fucking virgin fuck you very much.”

“May as well have been. There’s no way you ever had any kind of connection through sex with anyone before this. I mean dead body, Roman?”

He squirms in his chair, a jolt running up his back.

“Can we please not? I’ve apologised too many times for that.”

“That’s one of my favourite stories to tell at a party. Don’t be embarrassed!”

“WHAT?”

“I don’t use your name,” she says waving him off. “It’s a party pleaser though. There have been many psychiatrists at these things trying to analyse that behaviour. Though he’s commonly discounted, Freud is often mentioned.”

“Could you, ya know, not do that anymore?” He asks exasperated.

“No one knows it’s you! Anyway, normo sex. How’s that?” She asks excitedly with a quirked eyebrow as Clara and Dex stand up, interrupting them to ask if they want more drinks.

“So?” Tabitha asks when they’ve gone back to the bar. “How did Gerri become such a dick tamer? Should have known she was a saucy little expert in private. I bet she’s wild.”

“Look,” he huffs. “Not to rain on your parade or anything but Gerri doesn’t want me talking about that with anyone and I’m going to respect that. All I can say is that it started unusually and then she talked me through it. I just felt different with her. I just wanted her.”

“Did it start when we were still together?” Tabitha asks though she looks as if she couldn’t care less about the answer.

“Um,” he offers, looking nervously around the room, notes the print on the wall, homing in on Sammy Davis Jr. laughing, like it’s aimed at his current predicament.

“It doesn’t matter if it did, Roman,” she shrugs. “That kind of thing doesn’t offend me. It is what it is.”

“Yes and no,” he offers, trying to puzzle the thing out in his head as she offers a confused pursing of her lips. “Not fully until I got back from Turkey which was after we ended it.”

“But before that?” She fishes with a laugh at his discomfort.

“Maybe like some suggestive shit a few times. Like no touching but like…,” he tries to think how to explain this without talking about Gerri’s sex life.

“My god, Roman. Just spit it out,” she laughs incredulously.

“Okay,” he panics. “Like I jacked off to her voice a few times and she was aware I was.”

Tabitha let out a roaring laugh, holding her hand over her mouth to try keep it in.

“Is that it?” She barks out through her laughter.

“I mean, it was something,” he shrugs. “I’m sorry.”

She bats him away, trying to control her laughter, holding onto her stomach.

“I’m happy for you, Rome,” she smiles genuinely. “I really am.”

“Thanks,” he scoffs, undoing the top button of his shirt to try and loosen the choking sensation around his neck.

“So, without revealing anything,” she laughs, offering a quirk of her eyebrows. “Is she satisfied? Like are you doing it well enough to please her?”

“Tabs, for fuck sake,” he groans, putting the heels of his hands onto his forehead, pushing the skin up so his eyes bulge further.

“Well, I’m probably the one person you can ask advice with such a plethora of knowledge.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“I assume you know what a g-spot is?”

“For fuck sake, of course I do,” he shouts, sitting up straight in his chair, twisting in it awkwardly. “I do the deed well!”

“And you engage in foreplay. Like stimulating her clit before you just plunge in there because you need her to be lubricated before you just stick it in or it’ll hurt,” she advises seriously, nodding her head.”

“Oh my god, please stop.”

“I’m just checking!”

“You really think the fucking siren that is Gerri Kellman would just have mediocre, shitty sex without trying to teach me how to make it optimum?” He asks with strained eyes, his lips twisted as though to prove how idiotic a notion that truly was.

“Fair point,” she hums.

“Exactly.”

“She was clearly a better teacher than me. Just make sure you like drive her crazy. Women like that. Like to be taken to the edge until they plead. And they like it rough sometimes as well. Not always just like lovey dovey bullshit. Sometimes they just want a rough fuck, you know?”

“Okay okay, thank you! Enough now. Please god.”

“Okay,” she giggles again.

The rest of the night passes by immeasurably better than what he would have thought before Tabitha had sat down. They had kept on drinking, sharing the stories of her shitty dates over the past few months and all the art events she had attempted to wind people up at whilst he had revealed his heartache over Logan’s demise and brutal attack. She had been empathetic, tracing the still tender part of his cheek bone, revealing that whilst she had never had a problem with Logan personally, his toxic persona was always something that was radiating out of him. He tells her about the water-skiing accident in Hawaii too; tells her about Gerri’s account of it that she had only revealed to him recently. He asks her advice over how to bring Maddie around more, the closeness in their ages allowing him to trust her instinct though Tabs was definitely more of a Charlotte than a Maddie. They make fun of Dex’s tragic attempts at making a move on Clara; Tabitha proving her point as her friend expertly taunts him until he’s almost pleading before she brushes him aside.

They decide to move onto a club, his increasing intoxication and the fun he’s having with Tabs luring him, alongside Dexter who wants him to keep Tabitha occupied so he can further attempt to make his move on Clara. He goes along, indulging in the times that he and Tabitha used to really enjoy each other’s company; sharing wicked stories about all the hilarious times they had spent together, like Shiv’s wedding and the countless unremarkable events he had had to drag her along to where they would spend the night annihilating everyone in private as they plastered fake smiles to their mouths.

He missed Tabitha; he really did. Apart from Gerri, she was the best friend he had ever had – a hell of a lot better than sleazy Dexter.

His inebriation takes him into the early hours though, distracted by having a merry old time on the dancefloor and shouting stories to Tabitha in the VIP area.

He knows he has to make more of an effort in the future – promises her he will, proclaims that she’s his bestest best friend in the whole wide world as he hugs her when he leaves.

“Don’t fuck it up with the siren!” She shouts to him as she gets into a cab, his personal car already on the way to collect him.

“I won’t!” He slurs back, waving her off. “Text me when you get home!”

 

****

 

He stumbles into the apartment with a thump, almost falling over onto the floor as he tries to catch his bearings in the dark hallway. His head spins as tries and fails to put his coat on the stand, falling against the door as he locks it. The hallway seems never ending while he staggers up it, bumping into the walls, nearly knocking down a priceless piece of art he never even liked in the first place.

“Ugly assed thing,” he groans as he tries to straighten it, aborting when he realises, he doesn’t give a shit.

He opens the door slowly to the pitched black bedroom, trying to allow his eyes to adjust to see if she’s asleep. As he tries to close the door behind him quietly, heeding her earlier warning, he seems to trip over nothing, slamming into the door, wincing and waiting for the inevitable roar that’s likely to come from her. Contrarily, he hears nothing – trying to keep his body as still as possible with only the sound of his own breathing for company, the movement of his chest accentuated and his heart deafening. He tries to halt every bodily function afraid to awaken the giant, but it seems she is fast asleep when he hears her mumble, a rush of breath escaping her.

He tries to tip toe to the bathroom with the grace of a reversing dump truck, not quite steady as he feels an overwhelming nausea of the last tequila shot retching up to his mouth. He swallows it back down, making him feel even more nauseated, leaning onto the sink counter taking deep breaths in an attempt to halt the whole contents of his stomach from regurgitating.

Furthermore, he falls into the sink as he tries to pull his shoes off, her perfectly stacked bottles and shit scattering across the counter as he tries to shoosh them, flinching as he looks at the closed door as if she were about to blast directly through it leaving a Gerri shaped hole. He laughs at the idea of that as he strips the rest of his clothes off down to his boxers, tumbling a few times more, cursing his Jell-O limbs. She must sleep like the fucking dead in his determination because not one threat splays through the door from the bedroom, his attention to remaining silent dwindling with each crash.

He cautiously creeps back into the bedroom though, almost crawling towards the bed as he pulls back the covers, climbing onto it when his shin batters off the bed frame; the pain jolting through his whole body as he tries to swallow the bellow down, turning into something that’s like a squeaky moan under his breath.

“Jesus Christ, Roman,” she groans groggily, twisting in the bed onto her back.

He’s almost relieved that she’s awake so he doesn’t have to hold in his pain, his eyes watering as he quickly rubs his shin and inhales quick pants.

“I’m sorry,” he slurs, falling onto his side as he holds his shin.

“It’s nearly 2am,” she whines as he looks up to see the light of her phone illuminating her dazed visage.

“Fuck,” he groans, whinging into the bed cover. “My shin hurts.”

“Serves you right,” she grumbles, returning to lie on her back and sinking back into the pillows with a sigh, her eyes closed, already trying to chase sleep.

He moans again, crawling further under the covers and towards her before his head thumps onto her stomach.

“Roman,” she protests again with a growl, though her hand instinctively goes to the back of his head as he breathes in the scent of her shirt, the radiating warmth of her cancelling out his nausea and pain whilst his hand darts around to find her spare so he can weave their fingers together.

“You smell so good,” he sighs into her stomach, her only response the stroking of her fingers through his hair a few times.

“My leg hurts,” he whimpers as she sighs, shifting her head to peak an eye open to look down to him.

“I thought you were coming home hours ago?” She asks blearily. “You’re going to be hungover now.”

“Turned out to be good,” he mumbles against her stomach, his salvia dropping onto her shirt as he tries to kiss the fabric.

“Have a good time?” She asks lightly.

“Yeah,” he smiles, squeezing her tighter.

“Good,” she sighs happily, her nails scrapping against the back of his head once more.

“Missed you,” he says resolutely, the clearest thing he’s uttered in the last two hours.

She hums in response, trails her hand down to the back of his neck.

“Love you,” he sighs into her. “Love you millions and billions and trillions and badillions,” he murmurs childishly as he pushes her top up a little, his hand sneaking under to touch the soft skin at her side.

“Love you too,” she mutters sleepily as he crawls up towards her clumsily, her body still with her closed eyes as she simply keeps her hand in place, allowing it to trail to wherever it falls on his body.

He burrows into her neck, kissing her jaw gently, moving a lazy kiss to meet her lips as she half responds, half moans in protest.

He pulls his head back to look at her, takes a moment to watch her soft features as she sleeps, her messy hair curling around her face, her plump lips so inviting. He leans down to kiss her again, but she’s quick to push her hand between them, fingers landing on his lips.

“I’m up in a few hours. Go to sleep,” she instructs steadfastly, her sleepy tone gone, a rapid peck placed on his lips before she turns her back on him and settling into her pillow once more.

He smiles reflectively, sleep already overtaking him as he leans on his elbow staring at her back whenever his eyes aren’t drooping closed; decides to curl into her back, a hum emitting from her as his hand settles under her pyjama shirt on her stomach.

How the fuck did he get so damn lucky?

Chapter Text

He begins groaning when Gerri’s alarm had gone off, falling quickly back to sleep at the sound of her shower running, attempting to ignore his aching stomach, only to be woken again half an hour later by his own blasted siren going off.

“How are you feeling?” She asks sitting at her vanity table, when he starts groaning, the light beginning to pour through the window.

“Fucking great,” he lies as his brain tries to burst out every orifice in his skull.

“I tried to warn you,” she hums, powdering her face as he looks to his bedside table, noticing a glass of water and pills sitting there. When had she even done that?

“I need to leave in ten. Have an early meeting with Karolina before her meeting with the board and want to catch up on some things,” she divulges as she strolls around the room, untying her robe.

“When I call in sick, am I supposed to do it to you or HR?” He moans from under the arm covering his face. “Or does this count right now?”

“Roman,” she warns exasperated. “There’s too much to do. This is why I told you not to drink too much.”

He offers a strangled moan in response, turning over to bury his head into her pillow.

“Get up. Take those pills. Have a shower. Put something in your stomach and you’ll feel better,” she advises sternly as she slips into a dress.

Another muffled moan is all she hears from him before her silence encourages him into her instructions.

“And don’t be late for your 8am,” she directs, slipping an earring on as he walks past her, trying to plant a kiss on her lips before she retracts her head quickly.

“Lipstick,” she explains before he sighs, kissing her cheek instead. “See you in there!” She shouts over the sound of the running shower, earning only a humph in return.

 

****

 

The day whizzes by for Gerri, piled up work to rifle through now the buzz around their relationship had finally abated. Roman’s day, on the other hand, crawls by. Every meeting lasts a lifetime, the one with Frank about Cruises almost bringing him to tears as he listens to him drone on. He doesn’t make any secret of his hangover as he plants his forehead on his desk during the meeting, only raising it for a second when Frank offers to ask his assistant to get him a coffee.

He’d only managed half a croissant this morning, the instant the pastry had touched his tongue setting his whole body into survival mode as the saliva built up, his stomach instantly trying to reject any sustenance.

He’s only momentarily surprised when Sam arrives with a jug of water for him, citing it was from the instructions of Gerri. There’s a mixture of annoyance and love in that; unsettled by Gerri going through his assistant instead of coming in to baby him herself, though when he looks up to see her animatedly talking with Cyd in her office, the fact that she had the inclination to still consider him made the love part of it more overpowering.

When it hits 5pm, he can’t take it anymore. The water nor the coffee had done fuck all; his head further pounding, his body fully renouncing him as the day had passed. He steals into Gerri’s office, trying to coax her to come home though she shoos him away, tells him to try and eat something while she stays late to catch up on some work and meet with Frank regarding his earlier meeting with the board. It staggers him how much work she can do in a day without even fucking flinching. He wonders if there will ever be a day where she’ll throw caution to the wind and go home at a reasonable hour without doing an iota of work – someday – maybe.

He dives straight into bed when he gets home, sleep instantly overtaking him while he had wild dreams about his dad in prison, the image of Silence of the Lambs as he is given the role of Clarice with Logan shouting expletives through the glass partition of his disappointment in Roman’s betrayal.

Gerri only momentarily wakes him when she shuffles gingerly into the bed just after 11; not that he let on. He goes right back to sleep, only realises he’s slept straight through when she wakes him up in the early hours to go to the bathroom, the hint of the sun rise beginning to don the bedroom being his first clue that it might just be morning.

“What time is it?” He mumbles when she snuggles back under the warm bed covers.

“Just after half four,” she whispers groggily as he snuggles into her back. “You’ve still got another hour.”

He doesn’t think he’s slept this long in years, his empty stomach beginning to protest at the lack of fuel he has provided it in the past few days.

Despite the fact he’s still feeling dazed from his hibernation, he’s awake now, his hand sneaking up her nightshirt to caress lazily across her stomach. He can hear her small hums vibrating through her chest as she rolls onto her back, her arm wrapping backward around his neck so she can gently graze the hair above his ear.

They’re both peacefully silent as he nuzzles into her collar, inhaling the mixed scent of the freshness of the fabric at her shoulder, the grapefruit of her skin, the aroma of her shampoo that he hasn’t quite pinned down yet; had always meant to check the bottle to confirm it.

His hand trails up to the underside of her breast, tickling her sensitive skin as he draws a light pattern down the soft flesh at her side, exploring every crevice he’s committed to memory before swirling circles around her stomach more determinedly. She happily responds, sighing into the crown of his head, her own lethargic pawing at his skull becoming distracting to him.

He’s surprised to feel her legs parting, her calf hooking over the back of his knee as she mutely takes his hand in hers, directs it slowly down between her legs. His energy bursts at that, his heartbeat increasing, moving his lips up to the underside of her jaw, offering warm adoration as his fingers begin massaging the bundle of nerves her body was begging for him to pursue. She’s moves her hand around to his back, becoming more desperate as her breath randomly hitches, her pelvis pushing up harder into his hand, her centre pooling at his attentions, aware of his attentive length pressing against her thigh as her neck presses up into his devoted mouth.

It’s not long until she’s seeking more, her lips finding his, morning breath ignored as her tongue languidly strokes his while his stroking of her centre becomes more insistent.

They don’t utter a word, their small movements offering enough instruction as she gently encourages him to climb on top of her, only small gasps emitted from both of them as he pushes inside of her; a slow expert rhythm building between them as he pushes his pelvis down onto hers to create that gratifying friction she needs. The desperate need makes itself known when he ups his tempo, her persistent grazing at his pulse point with her teeth communicating that it’s exactly what she needs.

The room fills with their panting, the vigorous flow of their bodies building up to the release they were both chasing before he comes with her whispered name on his lips, her seizing around him following quickly behind.

He’s sprawled across her, her foot leisurely caressing the back of his calf as they bask in the afterglow waiting for their chests to return to a normal pace; waiting for the moment her alarm will remind them there is a day of corporate fuckery ahead.

“You’re feeling better today then?” She croaks out, clearing her throat when she hears her own raspy voice back.

“Mhm,” he sighs, pecking her neck as she hums contentedly. “Hungry though.”

“You were sound asleep when I got in,” she divulges. “Even when I got into bed. Thought you must have needed it.”

“I literally thought I was going to die the whole of yesterday,” he groans, burrowing into her harder. “Didn’t even have the energy to fight with Frank.”

“We’ve all been there,” she sighs. “The trick is learning from it. Knowing your limits. Having the willpower to say no to another shot,” she chuckles.   

“Mmm,” he half groans in protest, kissing her neck. “Please don’t give me a lecture.”

“I’m not,” she refutes, closing her eyes lightly. “I’m just imparting my wisdom.”

He sits up, hovering over her lips as she offers a sincere smile, pushing his hair out of his face as his tired eyes look down at her.

“Then please don’t impart your wisdom at this time,” he punctuates with a peck to her lips as she frowns. “Maybe when I’ve eaten something and have the energy to come up with a good enough retort.”

He kisses her more insistently as she snickers into her response, becoming more heated until her alarm goes off with a ringing blare, his face instantly grimacing as she wriggles underneath him to turn it off.

“Time to get up,” she smiles, offering another peck before trying to push him off.

He lets out a child-like whine, holding her in place before kissing her again, his hand burrowing into her hair in encouragement, though she simply laughs, pushing him away.

“You know the rules,” she says between a kiss. “I need to get up on time or my whole day is off. I already gave you a half an hour of my beauty sleep.”

“Don’t need beauty sleep,” he mumbles against her mouth. “Fucking beautiful already.”

She smiles softly before pushing him away again.

“Up,” she directs insistently, pushing up as she squeezes out from under him while he groans loudly. “Go get something to eat before you shower.”

“Or we can shower together,” he observes impishly as she plods across the room towards the bathroom – her tired form, her messy hair, her pale thighs on display too fucking inviting to pass up. “Save water.”

“Oh yeah, because we’re struggling for water in this apartment,” she snickers, crossing the bathroom threshold.

“I was thinking more about the environment. You know, our oceans are dying,” he tries to argue flippantly.

“Because of the plastic in it,” she sails through with a laugh. “What’s that got to do with sharing water?”

He wrinkles his nose, trying to think of a better argument.

“Because if you don’t let me shower with you, I’m not going to recycle for a whole day. Even worse, I’ll deliberately use plastic and publicly not recycle it for everyone to see.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“It’s called incentivising.”

“No.”

“Come on, Kellman. Do it for our coral reefs!”

“No.”

“Then do it for the reputation of Waystar as the environmentally conscious conglomerate it is,” he half laughs as he raises his eyebrows at the silence he’s met with after.

“Go and make me a coffee and I’ll think about it,” she offers, reappearing to lean on the doorframe, taking in his form tangled through the bed sheets.

“What? If I make it extra good, you’ll let me slink up against your wet body and scrub your back?” His eyebrows wag suggestively, whilst she offers only a small smile, pushing off the frame.

“It’s called incentivising,” she throws over her shoulder.

 

****

 

He feels a damn sight better this morning, the flirting between them had continued and brought an elation to the start of his day that he didn’t even know he needed, though they were rudely interrupted by a phone call in the car on the way in.

There was something to be said for being able to actually look at her now without worrying whether people would suspect anything. She did, however, send a text mid-morning telling him to stop looking at her like the cat that had got the cream, or everyone would know what they had gotten up to.

So fuck, let them know. He wanted to be able to fucking smile at her, give her a wink every so often if he fucking felt like it, even if her proclamations of having to remain professional in front of everyone were now bordering threatening.

 

He’s just about to try and convince her to go to lunch with him when Karolina bursts into his office, her demeanour clearly tense.

“Gerri’s office, now,” is all she demands as he frowns.

When he saunters into the office, he’s about to head straight for the couch, had already decided to flip backwards onto it over its arm before he becomes distracted by the already ongoing conversation.

“Yeah, it doesn’t look good,” he hears Karolina say gently.

He looks up quickly, sees Gerri’s clearly furious visage staring at him pointedly holding Karolina’s phone in front of her; Karolina standing awkwardly next to her looking at him sheepishly.

“What?” He shrugs nervously, pushing off of the couch arm and walking halfway over to the desk.

Gerri simply huffs, hands Karolina back her phone, gesturing with a head nod for her to break the news instead. He’s growing worried at Gerri’s angry demeanour, watching as she folds her hands in front of her mouth, her elbows biting into her hard desk.

“Well,” Karolina ventures as she approaches him slowly. “A news story is about to break. Some shitty gossip magazine. You know the type. But it’ll likely blow up, though it’s not that bad. Just bad optics.”

He’s growing even more nervous as Karolina tries to tip toe around the bad news, her voice became higher and higher, her hands fidgety – something he had only witnessed her perform when she knew his dad was going to blow.

“Oh my god!” He explodes. “Can you just tell me?”

Karolina is taken aback by that, jolts her head backwards for a second, an ounce of guilt washing over him until he sees her face harden and turn her phone aggressively towards him.

He struggles to make it out at first, all the dark colours just making it look like a gigantic blob in the middle photo, until he takes the phone off of her, straining his eyes to make it all out.

It’s him. Him and Tabitha. From the other night, outside the club. Three pictures side by side. One of them laughing, one hugging, and one holding hands as he points to her with the other.

“This isn’t what it looks like,” he says quickly, looking up to Karolina who offers an awkward twisting of her lips, his head darting directly to Gerri who simply holds her stare, sighing deeply into her clasped hands.

“No like,” he stammers, scrolling down the screen to look at the headline.

 

‘Trouble in Paradise? Roman Roy spotted with model ex-girlfriend’

 

“No, seriously,” he mutters. “There’s nothing in this.”

Karolina only huffs, going to take the phone back off him, until he snatches it towards him out of her reach.

“Karolina,” he shouts angrily. “This isn’t what it fucking looks like!”

He chances a glance at Gerri again, her stature still unmoving, so much he would believe she was a part of the fucking furniture at this point.

“Gerri, it’s not,” he pleads softer though she remains stagnant.

“No, no, I know,” Karolina offers quietly, before reaching out to pry her phone from his hand as he looks panicked between them. “But it doesn’t look good,” she sighs. “It’s clickbait bullshit but it’s something we’re going to have to counter. The pictures are too suggestive.”

“They weren’t—,” he groans, spinning on the spot. “We’re friends. I was hugging her when I was saying goodbye. Fucking friends do that!”

“I know,” Karolina offers in an attempt to calm him. “But they’re obviously trying to sell stories. Your name has just been plunged into the stratosphere again with the announcement of the relationship. It just makes you a hot topic.”

“So, what do we do? Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it,” he blusters panicked, Gerri still apathetically silent behind her desk.

“We just need to dispute it,” Karolina shrugs. “Counter story of a source saying it’s bullshit?”

“Can’t we just kill it? Buy the photos?” Gerri pipes up practically.

“Not at this stage,” Karolina shakes her head towards Gerri. “Not when it’s already written and about to go live.”

“And what about the rest of the photos?” Gerri asks through the clasped hands at her mouth. “I assume there’s more than just those. That these are the best of them.”

“Maybe,” Karolina shrugs. “I can ask? Stop them from going to other magazines maybe. This’ll definitely be the worst of them, or they would have printed them themselves. Our best course of action is running our own counter story. Picture of Tabitha with another guy maybe?”

“I don’t really want to drag her into this,” he says sternly. “She’s not done anything wrong.”

He notices Gerri’s eyebrows minutely rise at that, returning to normal so quickly that he questions whether he even saw it at all.

“Neither of us have!” He confirms loudly.

“Does she have a partner or something we could confirm?” Karolina asks before biting the inside of her mouth.

“No, she—,” Roman begins before Gerri interrupts.

“That’ll make it worse. It’ll look like they’re both shamelessly cheating,” she states pragmatically.

“I’m not fucking—,” he goes to say before Gerri cuts him off again.

“We’ll need to just put sources close to the couple saying it’s bullshit. That they’re just friends. Maybe get an image of us both together somewhere to show everything’s fine,” Gerri offers, inverting her lips before biting on her bottom one.

He can’t figure her out; doesn’t know if she believes it, or if she’s hurt – the only thing he can see is anger.

“Okay,” Karolina mutters, typing furiously. “Might be even better if we got an image of all three of you together?”

It’s Gerri’s furrowed eyebrows that gives Karolina the answer that is simply not an option at the moment as Roman looks wildly between them; Karolina unwilling to venture into getting involved in their relationship.

“Okay then,” Karolina waffles awkwardly. “We’ll, uhm, need to get the image of you both out the day after tomorrow then or it’ll just look like you’re showing a brave face.”

“How soon can you get a counter story?” Gerri asks seriously, scrolling on her computer quickly, as Roman looks between them incredulously, not understanding how they can just sit there so chill, like they aren’t sitting there accusing him of being a fucking adulterer, like his fucking partner isn’t about to kick him to the curb for being a fucking cheat.

“Today looks too desperate. Probably tomorrow,” Karolina confirms scrolling through her contacts. “I can get Billy. He’ll put the spin on it. So, if you guys can set something up for tomorrow night, I can have a photographer there. Get it out by Tuesday or Wednesday.”

“Don’t forget we’re going to Vienna on Wednesday afternoon,” Roman interjects, noting Gerri’s eyes dropping to her keyboard awkwardly.

They were, weren’t they?

“Yeah, I know,” Karolina nods. “Might not be a bad idea to set up a few candid photos there as well to legitimise it.”

“Jesus Christ,” Roman groans, plonking down onto the couch.

“I’m going to go call Billy, all right?” Karolina says looking over to Gerri who simply nods, Roman lolling his head onto the sofa with a huff.

“Don’t forget to try and get the other photos,” Gerri adds as Karolina nods before leaving Gerri’s office.

He hears Gerri’s keyboard bashing before he even looks up to her, eventually sees her narrowed eyes scrutinising whatever is on her screen.

“Gerri, I—,” he offers pleadingly though she cuts him off immediately.

“Not here,” she bites curtly.

“Not here?” He parrots angrily, standing up to walk towards her desk. “Then where? Come to lunch with me then and I’ll explain the whole thing.”

“I’ve had all the explanation I need,” she digs, staring at the computer screen.

“You haven’t let me explain anything,” he squeaks, his palms firm on his chest as he tries to explain himself.

“Not here,” she says punctuating her severity with a pause between the words as he throws his hands up in an exasperated huff. “There are over fifty people on the other side of that glass,” she explains. “Who in a matter of minutes when this story breaks are going to be potential leaks for whatever goes on inside this office between you and I.”

“Then I’ll close the blinds,” he says desperately.

“I don’t think the glass windows are soundproof enough for what I have to say, Roman. So, come over here, kiss me, and then go back to your office. Plaster a smile on your face for the rest of the day and we’ll talk at home,” she says resolutely.

He doesn’t understand how he doesn’t get a say in any of this? Doesn’t know how he’s supposed to go through the day with his name tarred as a philanderer whilst she decides their fate.

“Answer me this,” he puffs, leaning his fists on the table to look down at her. “Do you believe me? That the photos aren’t, fucking, that?”

“I don’t know, Roman,” she sighs, staring directly into his eyes, the hint of her sorrow lying within them as he crashes into complete despair. “Now come here and kiss me,” she commands robotically, plastering what he knows is her best fake smile onto her lips.

“I thought we weren’t supposed to do that in the office?”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Just make it brief.”

He moves towards her, his heart sunken as it suddenly hits him that he’s now being roped into giving calculated attention to her for the benefit of other people, so they believe they’re in a loving relationship. When the fuck did it turn to pretending?

He leans down to give her a kiss that he has experienced a billion times before, though it’s the first he’s had of these with her. He’s haunted by this feeling; that disturbing sentiment when you’re trying to pour emotion into a kiss and the recipient barely responds as though they were just asked to kiss a lamp. He pulls back feeling even more disgusting than he did when he had gone into it. The lack of emotion in her response was something he had never received before, her hard eyes now staring into his worried ones, before she looks away quickly.

“Ask Claire to come in on your way out,” she orders soberly, turning back towards her screen, moving the mouse around quickly.

“Sure,” he whispers, walking to the door.

“And think of something we can do tomorrow night,” she adds bitterly.

“Okay,” he more or less breathes before closing the door behind him.

 

****

 

He doesn’t know what to do with himself for the rest of the day, his agitation rising when the story finally breaks as he watches a few guys at their desks giggling like little fucking schoolgirls. He doesn’t realise he’s pushed up from his chair to give them a thrashing until he catches Gerri’s eye, a warning glance for him to sit back down and put a smile on his face.

Bullshit is the only way he could describe how this whole fucking thing has played out.

Fucked off that he can’t close his blinds, can’t go out and stamp on those assholes’ phones, can’t hospitalise the weasel photographer who had taken an innocent moment and made it sordid, can’t convince Gerri that he didn’t do anything wrong.

He’s furious that he isn’t just allowed to be fucking angry. Anything he did in this moment could be construed as flapping, could wrongly confirm that this media manipulation was true. He wants to storm out of the building, challenge anyone who dares suggest there was any truth to this conspiracy theory, even a frown could give them the juice they’re looking for.

 

Tabitha:

Yo, what the fuck is with the pictures of us from the other night?

 

Fuck, he had forgotten to warn Tabitha. Jesus fucking Christ.

 

Roman:

I know. We’re trying to do damage control. Just don’t offer any comment just now.

 

Tabitha:

Fucking leeches.

 

Roman:

Motherfucking parasites. I’m genuinely ready to start a fucking riot with whoever the fuck took them.

 

Tabitha:

I’m in.

How’s Gerri taking it?

 

Roman:

Not fucking well.

 

Tabitha:

Want me to talk to her? Explain everything?

 

Roman:

Maybe another time. I’m still waiting for her to let me talk to her about it.

 

Tabitha:

Well, just give me a call if you need it. I had fun the other night even with this desperate attempt to fuck you up. At least my hair looks good in the pictures.

 

Roman:

Me too, Tabs. Will give you a call when I have any updates.

 

Tabitha:

✌️

 

He looks up to see Gerri in her office, on the phone with fuck knows who as she pushes back in her chair to get a file from her drawer.

How she can sit there so peacefully and get on with her workday when his mind was reeling was completely foreign to him. He can’t fathom how she can believe any of it when she knows how much he absolutely worships the ground she walks on. There has been nothing but clarity on that subject; absolutely no room for ambiguity.

Had he not fully spelled out how Gerri was the only one who seemed to be able to make him function? That she was the only person he ever truly loved? That she was the only one he had ever been able to have a semblance of a normo relationship with? Any iota of a sex life with? That all those other girls were nothing but mere props? That his relationship with Tabitha had been nothing but the eunuch besties she had professed them to be?

The prospect that Gerri didn’t believe him wasn’t only outrageous; it was insulting. She had been the one to profess how much trust they had to have between them and yet she was willing to throw away all that for the sake of a photo of him hugging his best friend? Fuck that. He wasn’t going to let that happen.

 

He goes into her office at bang on 6pm when everyone is going home, trying to follow the path of what they would usually do in any other workday to keep up this façade of normality.

“I still have too much work to do,” she rebuffs him. “If you want to go, then feel free.”

“When will you be home then?” He asks exasperated.

“I don’t know,” she huffs with a pointed tone, not even raising her head to look at him, still writing on her notepad. “Late.”

He can feel his earlier fury rising, looking out to the desks through the glass, noting the dots of people still at their desks before he tries to bring himself back under control.

“Fine,” he shrugs defiantly. “I have work to do too. Let me know when you’re ready to leave.”

“There’s no reason for you to stay,” she throws nonchalantly as he walks determinedly towards the door.

“I’m the COO. It’s not like I don’t have work to do,” he fires back curtly before storming to his own office.

“She wants work,” he mutters out loud to himself when he gets to his desk. “I’ll give her work.”

He blazes through his emails, concentrating on the ones he knows will need Gerri’s attention so he can CC her in on the responses; reads and edits Frank’s report that she had forwarded onto him from Cruises before sending it back with detailed scrutiny.

A text message comes through from Karolina confirming the run of the counter story tomorrow and that they had obtained the extra photos, sending them through to him, confirming that Gerri had also been sent them.

There’s nothing disparaging in them. Dex and Clara appearing next to them as they left the club. Dex kissing Tabitha on the cheek as Roman had given Clara an excitable wave as she attempted to hail a cab down. Then the farewell to Tabitha that they had already seen, though the burst of photos had shown him walking away from her holding her hand as he spoke before he let it go and then pointing to the cab shouting to her before going onto his phone – texting Gerri if he recalls correctly.

He wonders what Gerri will make of them; if she will scrutinise them, seeing something that isn’t there.

Claire interrupts him when he’s just about to start looking up possibilities of what the two of them are going to do on their forced date tomorrow. She asks what he wants to eat so she can order for him and go pick it up, his confused frown clearly evident as she answers in a head nudge towards Gerri’s office.

He looks up to Gerri through the glass, sees her busy hands typing on her screen in deep concentration, realises that Claire has been sent for his food order; a glimpse of hope that maybe she isn’t completely set on the idea that he is an unfaithful piece of shit.

The inward debate in his head begins for what they can do when he’s eating the burger Claire’s brought in for him. No matter what it had to be somewhere public, somewhere people could catch a glimpse of their happily ever after. There’s an understanding that it would be much easier to go somewhere where they could network, taking the onus off them to keep up an awkward exchange with only one another. However, he realises the need for this to come across as something more intimate, throws around the idea of dinner, though the prospect of having to stare at each other for over an hour when they are likely going to be at each other’s throats isn’t exactly inviting. His final idea sits on going to some show, showing up together, quick photo, sit in silence for two hours together, may seem romantic? He doesn’t know. Will give her all the options and let her decide since he’s done all the fucking leg work.

He’s finally notified by Claire at 9.30 that Gerri is just about to leave, the sickening feeling in his stomach for this upcoming showdown becoming progressively overwhelming. The elevator ride is made easier with Gerri rhyming off instructions to Claire as she quickly batters them into her phone; the heat off him as he can just sit back and dread the car journey home.

Awkward is the only way he can describe it as he fidgets trying to find the words to start this whole conversation off, that is until she receives a phone call from Maddie. He thanks the god he doesn’t believe in yet contemplates the possibly that it’s a planned ruse on Gerri’s part so that she doesn’t need to speak to him. He had never considered that she might be dreading this as much as he was; had already resigned himself to the idea that a delightful lambasting was her kind of pastime – maybe not.

 

“Okay, honey,” she says as she opens the car door in the underground parking lot of the apartment building. “Yes. I know. I will,” she continues as he leads the way, holding the door open for her as he waves goodbye to her driver. “All right. I’m going in the elevator. I’m going to lose you… okay, honey… okay… bye.”

She huffs as she hangs up, immediately moving to her messages once again.

“Maddie?” He asks, doesn’t really know what else to say.

“Yeah,” she sighs, typing on her phone. “She’s having issues with the plumber she hired. Thinks he’s overcharging.”

“Damn plumbers,” he says lightly as he presses the button to the elevator – not his best work. He sways back and forth on his feet, looking up to the ceiling as he tries to ride out the growing silence, the concept of whistling to fill the awkwardness about to be his next move before she, to his surprise, fills it herself.

“Have you given any thought to tomorrow night?” She asks distractedly.

“Hmm?” He mumbles. “Tomorrow? Yeah,” he smiles though she doesn’t see, her attention solely on her phone as the elevator dings open. “Ehm… well I have some options. There’s an art exhibit in the Met if you wanted to do that? Or uhm…”

“I don’t think that’s a great idea,” she cuts off sternly. “Too many people we could bump into that we know who might ask about the article; could make for awkward conversation.”

“Okay,” he drones thoughtfully as the elevator starts to move. “Well we could go to the theatre? Quick picture outside, two hours of no one talking to us?”

“Hmm,” is all she responds, flicking through her phone still.

“Or we can just do dinner? Somewhere exclusive so no one bothers us? Or somewhere quaint where no one knows us to ask any questions?”

“Dinner’s probably best,” she confirms resolutely. “Somewhere exclusive so it doesn’t look like we’re trying to hide away. Can be over and done within an hour and we can choose the time. Theatre’s too restrictive.”

“Okay,” he sighs solemnly, his head bowing as he realises that their first ever public date was going to be fucking shit. It was something he had been waiting so long to be able to do; the prospect of holding her hand in public, showing her all his favourite places he loved to eat, finding out all the places she loved, pilfering food from her plate, not worrying about stealing a kiss; but instead she was just thinking how to get it over and done with – nothing like he had imagined at all.

He remains silent after that, her mood an indication of how this conversation was likely going to pan out. She leads the way as he woefully follows, watching as she hurriedly makes her way to the kitchen, plants her briefcase on the table.

“Do you want a drink?” He fishes shyly, simply looking for something to do with his hands, simply looking for some Dutch courage himself.

“Uhm,” she imparts distractedly, pulling her laptop out. “Yeah, just a small one though.”

As he mixes her martini, he tries to think how to broach this, rehearses what he might say and trying to imagine how she might respond. Psyches himself up by muttering his opening line under his breath as he walks into the kitchen with their drinks, noting her scrutinising her laptop screen.

“Are you…,” he frowns distractedly. “Are you doing more work?”

“No,” she sighs softly, as he places the glass down in front of her. “Just need to check something quickly.”

He takes a huge gulp of his drink, tries to remember the line he had thought up only a moment ago, his mind so jumbled that he can’t recall, the frustration at her detached aura overpowering his thought process.

“So, like, are we going to talk about this or?” He blurts out more powerfully than he had intended, his eyes wide with worry as he regards her.

“Okay,” she sighs, closing her laptop over, still not meeting his eyes as she picks up her drink and sips it before standing up. “But it’ll need to be brief, I need to get to bed. I have a call with Rob in Tokyo at 4am.”

He looks down to his watch seeing it’s already ten as she begins walking out the kitchen towards the bedroom.

“Why did you stay so late then? You said we were going to talk about this when we got home?” He asks angrily, following her through the hall.

“Because my work included going over the figures for this call tomorrow. I had to be prepared,” she says aloofly, already pulling her earrings off as she continues her strides, continuing small sips from her glass.

“And you couldn’t have done that earlier?” He asks frustrated, standing next to the bed watching as she blasts over to her vanity table, sliding her shoes off under it.

“No, I couldn’t,” she barks back. “I had other things to tend to. Contrary to popular belief, being a CEO is not a nine to five. Considering the whole of last week was been monopolised by our announcement, I have a lot to catch up on.”

He growls out an exasperated huff, his hands firmly planted on his waist as she ignores him, downs the rest of her martini before getting up to pick out a pyjama set and laying it on the bed as she starts to undress.

“Okay, whatever,” he shrugs off flippantly. “I literally don’t care. Are you going to let me explain the photos or have you already made your decision on my fucking morality?”

She snickers under her breath, a challenging eyebrow offered to the floor before she steps out of the dress she has shimmied down to her knees.

“Be my guest,” she throws breezily, before picking up her pyjamas and moving into the bathroom, leaving the door ajar so she can hear him.

He doesn’t know how to take that move; that she’s not dressing in front of him. For some reason he feels like he should look away, like he’s now somehow invading her privacy if he looks when she doesn’t want him to. He turns his back, deciding to undress himself, the suit becoming progressively restricting anyway.

“Look,” he shouts, ensuring that he can be heard. “There was nothing to it. We were literally just hugging each other goodbye outside the club. I regretted not seeing her for the past year, ya know? She was a really good friend to me when we were dating. The closest thing to a best friend I’ve ever had, and I treated her like shit because of all the things that I got distracted by in the last year. She put up with a lot from me when I couldn’t, you know, perform, and I was less attentive when this shit started with… you,” he settles on weakly, rolling his eyes at his own shitty choice of words. “And then I just out of the blue kicked her to the curb without much of an explanation. I should have at least kept in contact with her. That makes me a fucking jerk, ya know?”

He sits on the bed in his boxers, his clothes torn from him and now strewn across the couch; Chuck the Chick staring back at him, though whether combatively or with comradery, he isn’t sure.

When he doesn’t hear anything coming from the bathroom, he wonders if she’s listened to anything he’s said; gets up slowly, sauntering over to the perched open door, sees her reflection in the mirror as she aggressively removes her makeup, begins applying her face cream.

“Can you hear me?” He asks reticently through the crack.

“I can hear,” she answers back solidly.

He lets out a huge puff at that, his explanation clearly not hitting the way he wants it to.

“How could you think there would ever be anything in those photos when you know I’m so fucking in love with you?” He asks resigned, his forehead nipping into the edge of the door frame as he watches her reflection falter briefly; his first real sign of any emotion from her; egging him on to continue. “Why would you think I would ever want anyone else when I have you? I told you how it was with Tabitha and how we were close. You know there was nothing remotely romantic in it. You know I only want you. That if this ever ended, I would be ruined for anyone else. You’re it, Gerri. You’re all I want. You know that.”

Her face turns impassive again as she turns towards the bathroom door, him jumping back quickly before she throws it wide open, turning the light off as she looks him in the eye directly for the first time since he had last kissed her, the memory of it sending a shiver down his spine.

“I did know that,” she reveals solidly before she hesitates. “Do know that,” she sighs before making her way to the bed. “What I don’t understand, is why you wouldn’t tell me that you were out having a grand old time with her if there was nothing in it? I don’t understand why you would omit to bring that up? Omission is a form of lying, Roman,” she challenges clearly as she pulls back the covers.

“I haven’t omitted anything! I didn’t mean to upset you—”

“I’m not upset,” she fires back sternly. “I’m just trying to establish the facts.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he begins ranting, pacing as he throws his hands in the air. “I was out with Dex and he was being a fucking creep talking about his ex. I was ready to come home which was when I was messaging you but then fuckface insists on one more drink and goes to the bar to order a drink and brings back two girls because he’s trying to score and one of them happens to be Tabs,” he recites animatedly. “And it was awkward as shit because I’ve barely spoken to her since we broke up and then we get our groove back and she tells me about her dad dying a few months ago and how she had to go back home to see her bitch of a mom in fucking Midwesternland and then I got to talk about my shit with my dad and I realised I actually enjoyed talking to her and missed her friendship,” he emphasises, pointedly looking at her impassive expression, before he continues rambling again as he paces at the bottom of the bed, her eyes continuing to follow his movements.

“Then there were more and more drinks and they encouraged me to go to a club and we kept talking shit and ripping on everyone and the night just ran away from me, then I hugged her goodbye when I left. I can barely even remember it I was so fucked. But it’s not like anything happened!” He looks over to her with a scoff as she sits up against the headboard, no interest in offering a comment at this time.

“And I didn’t fucking omit telling you. I didn’t even get the chance to tell you. I’ve barely seen you since. I was hungover and we were in work and then I slept as soon as I got home last night, but she’s just my friend! I would have fucking told you when I thought to even bring it up. I didn’t think it was a big deal. If I had known it was going to cause all this, I wouldn’t have fucking went out in the first place.”

She stares at him silently, observing his worried stature, watching him as he waits for her response, nothing else to divulge.

“I have no objection to you having friends, nor Tabitha being your friend,” she decides on staunchly.

“Good, because that’s all that is. If you remember correctly it was you that I came home to that night. It was you I was fucking mooning over when I got home. It was you I made cream this morning because I want you every fucking minute of every fucking day. Not Tabitha. Not then, not now, not ever,” he shouts irritably as she watches him passively, the silence thickening between them as he continues panting.

“Fine,” she finally says, burrowing further down into the covers as if she’s about to go to sleep.

“That’s it? Fine?” He asks outraged, raising his voice.

“I told you, Roman. I’m up early tomorrow and need to sleep,” she elaborates obstinately.

“So that’s it? I pour everything fucking out and you just say fine and go to sleep?” He challenges wildly, as she rolls her eyes, taking her glasses off to place on the bedside table.

“Roman,” she sighs irately. “I’m tired. I’ve been non-stop all week. I’m up early to make a phone call to fucking Japan in the morning and then I don’t even get to go to bed early tomorrow night even though I will likely be exhausted because I need to doll myself up to become a fucking cover girl to clean up this mess you’ve landed us in. So, yes, I’d like to go to bed now.”

“So, you’re choosing Waystar over this fucking crucial conversation?”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” she deadpans. “But it was never a secret that my work is of paramount importance in my life. You knew that before any of this between us even started. So, let’s just leave this at that, okay?”

He feels his whole body sagging at her harshness, flustered as he tries to figure out whether he should continue this fight or just give her what she wants.

Her challenging eyebrow gives him the answer he’s looking for, a dare for him to continue and suffer the consequences. All of a sudden, the passionate lovemaking they had experienced in this very bed this morning feels like it was a hundred years ago as he shrugs, resignedly shaking his head in surrender.

“Whatever,” he almost whispers as she nods, turning the lamp on when he gets under the covers

He’s never felt like such a foreigner in his own bed as she turns her back to him, her breathing the only thing he can hear in the soundless room. Honestly, he would have thought that all the years of sharing a bed with girlfriends he never cared for would be worse, but this – being a foot away from the only person you want to wrap yourself and inhale but feeling like you couldn’t was the most devastating thing. He would take heartlessly sleeping in a bed with a stranger any day over being inches from her warmth when they were in turmoil.

He continues to turn and twist, uncomfortably trying to rid himself of the feeling that he shouldn’t be here, that his body wasn’t allowing him to relax because he didn’t belong. It felt incomplete between them, being completely unabsolved of any of the wrongdoing he had been previously accused of.

She had said that she wasn’t upset, and he wonders if this was about jealously or doubt at all, but on the other hand, if she was simply trying to put on a strong front. Maybe he would fucking know if she had given a fucking hint of what the fuck she was thinking before she had shut the whole thing down.

The words paramount importance turns over and over in his head as he tries to decipher whether that meant Waystar was of the utmost importance. Over him. Over her kids. Over everything. Or maybe she had just meant that it was one of the main priorities in her life. He tries to block it out, the reality of the prior interpretation too much to even process right now.

He turns over frustrated on his side again as he considers that she was blaming him for her having to go out with him tomorrow night, wonders if he should just cancel the whole thing, fake a stomach bug or something.

“Would you stop?!” She erupts loudly next to him, twisting to look over her shoulder towards him as he jumps out of his skin.

“What?” He whispers as he tries to understand what was going on.

“You’re fucking tossing and turning. How the fuck am I supposed to sleep if you can’t stay still. Every time I drift off, you bounce up and down and wake me!”

He can feel his fury rising, matching her own as he feels the need to bite back.

“Well excuse the FUCK out of me for being a bit fucking restless. Maybe if you gave me any kind of fucking indication of what you were thinking I wouldn’t have to lie here and try to be a fucking clairvoyant to figure out what the fucking issue is,” he fires back heatedly, his heart still thrumming from the shock of her outburst.

“I’m not doing this with you tonight,” she fumes sitting up quickly and throwing the covers off of her. “There’s no way I’m going to compromise my work nor my position just because you want to childishly stay up all night in an argument. No fucking way.”

He’s shocked to see she’s jumped out of the bed, bending over to snatch her phone charger from the wall and grabbing her glasses before charging around the bed.

“What’re you doing?” He asks hotly as his eyes follow her movements.

“I’m going to sleep in one of the spare rooms,” she fires at him, passing his side of the bed towards the door.

“Are you fucking serious?” He shouts infuriated as he sits up to look at her.

“Yes, I’m fucking serious,” she says stopping just short of the door next to him. “You’ve given me no fucking choice. So, if this is how I need to get some sleep then so be it,” she explains venomously before storming towards the door.

“Fuck you,” he roars throwing his hand up in the air.

“Fuck you,” she shouts furiously back from down the corridor.

He batters back down onto the bed, looking up to the ceiling, thumping the mattress with his fist in a rage before turning onto his side.

The bed seems so empty without her in it, the warmth from her side still radiating. He grabs her pillow aggressively, wrapping his arms around it, tucking his nose into its softness as he inhales her scent, closing his eyes to consider how the fuck they’re going to make it out of this one.

Chapter Text

He’s disoriented for a moment when he reaches for his blaring alarm the next morning, reaching out to wrap around her until he realises the bed it empty. He peeks through his tired eyes, looking to her vacant vanity, straining over his shoulder towards the bathroom to see if he can hear the shower – that’s when the memories flood back to him. He faceplants back into his pillow, a huge sigh escaping him as he tries to process what had even happened last night, how it had got so testy, how closed off she had been when she had normally been so forthright.

Jumping out of bed, he cautiously ventures into the apartment to find her. Though there is no sign of her, the smell of coffee is overpowering; she couldn’t be far away. He stands at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the spare bedrooms, holding his cup of coffee, considering whether he should take the plunge and just go up.

A repeat of last night is the last thing he wants; he doesn’t think he has the energy for it today. He’d achieved barely a few hours sleep after she had stormed off; too much to contemplate, too much to analyse for slumber to reach him easily.

He pads back into the bedroom instead, takes a lengthy shower as he rehearses how to broach her when they eventually see one another. The apprehension seems to set in more when he’s crisply dressed, the finishing touches of the little concealer Gerri had taught him to apply on his healing eye, the waft of his cologne now surrounding him as he waits at the kitchen table for her to make an appearance. However, the longer he sits there, straining to hear even her footsteps padding around the spare bedroom that never arrive, the longer he realises that this was abnormal.

He looks at the time, becomes even more sceptical when it starts to approach 7am. She’s usually the one rallying him out of the door well before this point, too afraid of the optics of not being the first fucking people in the office.

The images of all the possible horrific reasons of why she was running late begin overwhelming him; the thought of her fallen over in the shower with her skull split open, blood surrounding her as the shower continued running the most prominent of them all – this a much more realistic conclusion in his mind than Gerri simply running late. Taking the stairs two at a time, considering the worst, the thought of finding her dead body or something equally horrific begins to make him nauseous, makes him hesitant to go into the room at all.

He knocks on the first bedroom door gently, listens closely for any sign of her presence before opening it gingerly. The bed is clearly unmade when he turns the light on, her phone charger reaching up to the bedside table, no glasses to be seen.

“Gerri,” he croaks out uncertainly, moving towards the en suite slowly before pushing the door open to the dark room, realising she’s not even here.

His nose scrunches up as he tries to understand; paces out of the bedroom towards the remaining spare to see if she perhaps used the other bedroom or it’s bathroom – maybe the shower was shit in that one?

But there was no sign of there either; she wasn’t up here at all.

He flies back down the stairs, looking around the table, onto the kitchen counters for any sign of a note; ducks his head into the main room and then the living room to see if maybe she was working on her laptop somewhere.

It was dead; she wasn’t fucking here. No note. No explanation. No nothing.

He pulls his phone out, instantly brings up their text conversation to see if he maybe had looked at something in his sleep, overlooked some message perhaps – nada.

The fury that builds in him is astronomical as he realises he had been sitting here like a fucking sucker waiting for her, assuming they would be going into the office together this morning like they seemed to do now she was living here. Yet, this time she hadn’t told him anything. Not a fucking peep.

She likely went to the office ahead of him, the guise of having work to do and needing to start early so she could get ahead of it, the reality of wanting to avoid him. She hadn’t made it any secret last night that work came first.

He scrolls through his emails as he makes his way down to his waiting car, notes four messages from her that he’s CC’d in from the past hour. He can’t believe the nerve of her, the anger he feels towards her stronger than he’s ever felt before as his bruised ego takes a horrible blow. The realisation hits him that the fight they had had last night must have been worse than what he had anticipated if she was refusing to even communicate that she was going into the office early.

His leg bounces the whole car journey to the office, a scoff leaving him with each email that comes through from her, his lip almost drawing blood from where his teeth had sunk into it as he holds himself back from texting her a middle finger emoji or something equally immature. Two could play this game.

When he stampedes onto the executive floor, he’s instantly met by Sam listing the agenda of the day, though his focus is solely on Gerri’s office. It’s clear she’s not in there, Claire seemingly unperturbed by it as she sits casually at her desk outside Gerri’s door shuffling papers around. He figures she must be in the bathroom or liaising with someone in their office, willing to wait the situation out before he opens an in-depth inquiry, embarrassing himself, and losing this game of chicken.

He listens absently to Sam prattle on in his office about who wants to schedule a meeting and the growing queries of what he’s supposed to be doing whilst Roman is in Vienna over the weekend. The answers to Sam’s questions never come as Roman grows progressively dubious about her whereabouts; watching as Karolina approaches Claire then the further disappointment etched on her face as Claire clearly delivers unwanted news. He doesn’t realise he’s frowning until Sam stops talking, looks over his own shoulder to see what Roman is glaring at before dumbfoundedly searching Roman’s face for an explanation for his scowl.

“What is it?”

“Have you seen Gerri this morning?” Roman breezily asks his assistant.

“Uhm…,” Sam searches the ceiling, pouting. “No, I don’t think so.”

“When did you get here?” Roman pushes, straining his eyes, sitting up straight in his seat as he continues to watch Karolina and Claire’s exchange.

“Like, seven?” The boy shrugs.

“Huh,” Roman offers, his tongue protruding into the side of his cheek.

“Don’t you know where she is?” Sam asks with a chuckle.

Roman’s eyes turn heatedly onto Sam with a grimace.

“Go get me a coffee,” he orders irritably as he stands up, walking over to his desk, fiddling with papers as Sam fumbles with everything he’s carrying as he scrambles out of Roman’s office.

Roman takes his opportunity to saunter casually over to Claire when Karolina goes back to her office, airily gallivanting over to her desk to push buttons on her phone before perching on the side of her desk.  

“Can I help you?” She asks amused.

“Wow,” he squeaks. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.”

She shakes her head, batting his hand away from the phone as he faux winces in pain before she returns to her diary.

“So, where is she?” He asks distractedly, looking out the view through the multiple windows.

“Salon,” she states firmly. “Getting a blowout.”

“Ahh,” he nods, trying to hide his lack of knowledge of yet another piece of information. “Oh yeah. She did say something about that.”

“Well it’s been in her diary for weeks since you’re going to Vienna on Wednesday so most likely.”

“Mhm,” he hums, inverting his lips awkwardly as he pushes off her desk. “Well, I better, ya know,” he says pointing over his shoulder towards his office as he walks backwards away from her, “skedaddle. Operations won’t run themselves, ya know?”

He spins on his heel, catching the rolling of Claire’s eyes as he goes before he detects Sam speed walking down the corridor, eyes fixed on the mug of coffee he’s trying to balance to prevent any spillages.

The morning is spent trying to ignore his growing anxiety, his anger abating at the whole situation with Gerri as he tries to prepare for a meeting with Joan later this afternoon after her dreaded interview with the Board. There’s only really one interruption when Sam comes in, pushing for information on his restaurant reservation for tonight, citing that Claire was pushing for confirmation so she could pass it onto Gerri. The realisation that this was becoming progressively ridiculous hits him like a ton of bricks. The fact that they were now communicating via their assistants when she could have just fucking texted him is nothing short of a fucking joke. The fact that it’s all been left to him is a fucking farce in itself, like he has something to fucking make up for. He gives Sam the name of the restaurant anyway to make the reservation; suggests a name drop him and to ask for Daniel if there’s any issue.

 

She doesn’t arrive until lunchtime, not even glancing in his direction before she pummels into her office, Claire hot on her heels with a notepad clutched to her chest.

He watches her as she huffs, nodding her head at whatever messages Claire is firing at her; notes how she swipes her newly done hair out of her face – a shade lighter if he’s not mistaken. To say that he’s growing tired of this whole debacle would be an understatement. On any other day he would have already accosted her before she had even made it into her office, flirting and raving about her new do as she gave him that warning glance he loves so much when Claire likely became uncomfortable and Gerri wanted him to tone it down. Yet, here he sat like a fucking loser, waiting for her to give him any semblance of attention so he could jump at the opportunity to find a way to fix this before they were forced to stare at each other over a candlelit dinner for an hour this evening. The dread that fills him at the prospect of that is punishment enough for whatever crime he has committed – because he still intrigued to find out what the fuck the charge even is.

It’s been one week since she’s moved in with him, since his dad had gone into the big house – and to say that it had been a rollercoaster of a week would be a serious fucking understatement. Who knew an awkward dinner with Gerri would be the expired cherry on the disfigured repugnant cake?

The consideration of whether he should just take the plunge and go in there starts a war in his thoughts. He contemplates just sending a quick text – but what would he even say? Maybe something about work? About when they should leave for the restaurant? But he could just get Sam to do that. Maybe it was for the best to just communicating through their assistants. He didn’t want to make the situation any worse than it already was. She seemed to only be communicating through Claire, so he determines he should perhaps just follow her lead on this one.

After his meeting with Joan, he feels much brighter; her positive energy eternally infectious as she recounts everything she had told the Board. He’s flattered as she staunchly recites her description of both him and Gerri as honest, genuine people who would never use their positions to seek an advantage; as stellar, approachable bosses in what she had previously considered a dying organisation. But it’s her kind listing of every endearing adjective of how she had viewed his and Gerri’s relationship that makes him feel, dare he say it, fuzzy inside. Supportive, loving, sincere, dynamic, brave – to name a few she had animatedly thrown into the ring.

“You're good people,” she finishes with a huge grin, tilting her head to the side. “Good for each other. A very fitting match.”

He wonders only momentarily if Joan has psychic abilities, sent here to refute every disparaging doubt he had whirring through his brain in the past 24 hours, though he quickly shakes that idea. It reminds him that this whole thing between him and Gerri is nonsensical though, becomes even more than obvious as he attributes all of Joan’s adjectives to Gerri specifically; recalling all the bullshit she had supported him in from the past week alone.

The temptation to hug Joan when she leaves is too strong to pass up when the meeting concludes. All of the confidence he seems to need to broach Gerri seems to pass from Joan’s body into his own when he unprofessionally embraces her; her encouraging patting of his back the final boost he needs.

He psyches himself up after Joan leaves; stretches his neck from side to side, takes deep calming breaths, downs the remainder of his coffee before approaching Claire at her desk.

“Good morrow, fair, uhm, Claire,” he greets perkily with a smirk as she deadpans looking up to him. “How dost thou?”

“Roman,” she acknowledges dryly.

“Can I obtain an audience with her majesty?” He asks fluttering his eyelashes.

“Sure,” she agrees, pulling up Gerri’s diary on her screen. “She has a 2.30 though so you have,” she halts, looking down to the clock in the corner of the screen, “eleven minutes.”

“Eleven whole minutes? I am not worthy,” he jests flippantly before slinking into Gerri’s office.

“Hey,” he offers lightly, walking slowly towards her desk, swinging his arms as she looks up briefly.

“Hey,” she says softly, pushing her hair out of her face, her pen playing between her fingers.

“I, uh, just wanted to come and let you know I got a table at Eleven Madison Park for six tonight. Confirmed it with Karolina too so someone should be there before and after to catch a glimpse of America’s most prestigious couple,” he waffles as he runs his hand across the back of the couch, peeking up at her now and then.

“Claire informed me,” she nods.

“That okay? Eleven Madison Park, I mean.”

“Yeah,” she shrugs returning to her notepad. “Fine with me.”

He simply watches as she quickly writes something down on her pad, feeling like a stranger in this office for the first time since Gerri took it over.

“So, uhm, do you need to go home first to change or?”

“I brought a change of clothes with me,” she divulges without even looking up from her scrawling as he perches onto the back of the couch. “Do you?”

“Well, I mean, what vibe are we going for here? I could wear this suit but if we’re going for more informal then…”

“I have jeans and a shirt,” she reveals.

“Okay then... uhm…yeah,” he reveals, scratching the back of his neck, wishing he had been more prepared when he was spiralling this morning. “Then I’ll need to go back and change.”

“It would be better to make it look more like a date than a business meeting,” she explains, straining her eyes on the screen before writing rapidly again.

“Sure. Yeah,” he nods awkwardly. “Obviously. Well I can duck out early and then come back for you.”

“Okay,” she says quietly.

He sits there quietly watching her, his lips rolling between his teeth as he struggles for what else to say, the decision to cut to the chase made when the small talk he has always hated evades his recall.

“Look,” he winces, pushing the heel of his palm into the back of her couch, “about last night.”

“Not here, Roman,” she warns, looking up to him. “We can discuss it all later, okay?”

He can’t help but scowl at that, a scoff involuntarily escaping his lips.

“Are we actually going to discuss it this time though?” He challenges bitterly, tilting his head to the side smarmily.

Her soft features turn more severe as her eyes consider him angrily.

“If you can control your temper in a public setting then I don’t see why not,” she goads formidably with a raised eyebrow.

He scoffs loudly, pissed off that she’s turning this back around on him before pushing off of the couch and heading towards the door.

“Riiight,” he offers childishly, stopping at the door clutching the handle before pulling it open. “Well, I can be back here for 5.30? Does that work?”

“That’s fine,” she says resolutely, still scribbling.

“Super,” he cheers sarcastically before throwing the door open and huffing through it.

 

****

 

He’s running his hand through his gelled hair as he waits for her to appear outside the Waystar skyscraper, trying to evoke that affection he had felt when Joan had left his office earlier. Joan’s words continue to whirl around his mind as he decides that he’s not going to bite like he did earlier, that’s he’s going to give his top effort into making this whole fiasco between them right.

He can’t help the small smile that comes to his lips when he sees her being escorted to the car by her one bodyguard holding a suit bag over his shoulder; the army of security dismissed as soon as the press had diminished. She looks stunning in her cute casual wear, the breeze adorably frustrating her as she tries to keep her perfect blowout from being plastered to her face.

Her appearance, however, does not match her attitude; her huffing and puffing already evident when she blusters into the car.

“You okay?” He asks sincerely as she tries to right herself.

“Yeah,” she groans. “Tired.”

He had already forgotten about that; that she had been up since like 3am – knowing her. The thought occurs to him that he should have spoken to Karolina about rearranging this, maybe doing it tomorrow night instead to accommodate her. Though it further dawns on him that she would likely take it as a personal afront on her age or some shit at even the notion that she couldn’t push herself to the limit in the name of Waystar and its image.

“So,” he pipes up after ten minutes of silence, “what’s the game plan for this?”

“Well you’re the celebrity out of us both,” she murmurs, looking up from her phone. “You have more experience in the public eye than I do.”

“I’m not exactly familiar with the incognito being papped even though we actually know we’re being papped, while also pretending to be loved up in the middle of a… tiff,” he argues lightly before looking out of the window.

He misses the rolling of her eyes as she looks back down to her phone.

“I suppose we show up, hold hands, plaster a smile on our faces,” she frustratedly rhymes off. “Go in, eat, don’t make a scene, and then go home.”

“Right,” he nods with artificial enthusiasm. “Sounds amaaazzinggggg.”

He hears her displeased sigh, looks around to her considering the clear tiredness etched over her face, remembering his earlier oath to himself, recalling his disappointment when he woke up this morning without her scent nor her warmth.

“I don’t want to fight with you anymore,” he breathes out resigned as she looks up into his eyes, her own misery etched there.

“I don’t want to either,” she admits gently as he bites his lip.

“I’ve wanted to tell you from the second I saw you today how fucking beautiful you look,” he confesses wholeheartedly never removing his eyes from hers. “Your hair looks stunning. It’s lighter, right?”

He’s happy to see the small bashful smile that splays her lips though she tries to hide it by bowing her head, darting her eyes down to her lap before looking back up to him.

“Yeah,” she whispers.

“I wish you hadn’t skipped out so early this morning,” he professes as he inches his hand closer to hers on the seat between them. “I thought you’d hurt yourself or something when you didn’t show up at precisely 6.30 to go down to the car.”

Her lips twist sadly at his revelation, her own hand inching towards his as her phone drops to her lap.

“Why didn’t you send me a message or leave me a note or something?” He asks quietly. “I was waiting for you.”

“I don’t know, Rome,” she whispers. “I wasn’t thinking. My mind was reeling after the phone call with Rob. My head was foggy. I didn’t get much of sleep.”

It’s the final thing he needs to push his hand the rest of the way towards hers, grazing his pinkie against her own until she lets out a small scoff, stroking his pinkie back.

“Neither did I,” he concedes as he turns his hand over, inviting her to take it.

She considers it, a sigh escaping her as she places her own on top, threading their fingers together, his thumb instantly the back of hers.

“Can we just talk about it properly at dinner? Please. I don’t want to do this anymore,” he whines, tightening his grasp around her hand.

“Yeah,” she breathes, turning to look out towards the window, silence growing between them.

“Is it pushing it to ask for a kiss? My day has just been beyond shitty without one,” he suggests impishly, a grin splayed across his lips when she looks around. “I’m starting to believe that if I don’t get one every morning now then it just jinxes my whole day.”

A breathy laugh blurts out from her as she looks down to their hands and back up to him.

“Just a small one. For good luck?” He encourages, bringing his hand up to his mouth, kissing her soft skin as he watches her tired eyes considering it.

She grins further despite herself, leaning towards him, meeting him halfway as he solidly pecks her lips.

“Ahhh,” he sighs dramatically when he pulls back as she shakes her head snickering. “Much better.”

 

****

 

After trying to manoeuvre the weird experience of trying to linger outside the restaurant for a few seconds longer than usual with no idea where the photographer even was, they’re finally sat at their out of the way table with the order already taken; Gerri distractedly looking out of the window when their wine arrives.

“So, uhm,” Roman ventures, clearing his throat as he tries to think of the words. “Are we going to, you know…”

Gerri looks around to him, reaching for her glass to take a sip when she realises what he’s referring to. She deliberately looks over his shoulder, then tries to stealthily look around the room and over her own shoulder to ensure there were enough people out of earshot before she even considers speaking; affirmative.

“What would you like to know?” She asks folding her hands together and pressing them into her mouth.

“Well, uhm, I suppose if you think I’m a deviant philanderer would be a good start,” he nervously giggles as he splutters it out.

She tilts her head to the side a little, regarding the man before her, making him even more nervous that it’s not an instant answer.

“No, I don’t,” she says gently, crossing her arms and settling them onto the table.

“Okay,” he sighs in relief, reaching for his drink to take a large gulp. “That’s something at least. Uhm, then maybe if you could tell me what I’ve done wrong then? Or, ya know, why you’re so upset with me?”

“I’m not upset, Rome. Well,” she clears her throat, looking back out to the room before her eyes settle on the candle between them on the table, “I’m not now.”

He leans back in his chair, eyes straining as she lifts her head to look at him, his eyebrows raising as he waits for her to continue, the growing silence suggesting she had no intention to.

“Care to expand on that?” He asks with a smirk, decides his charm here may be the best tactic.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” she leans back in her own seat, her fingers playing with the tablecloth as her eyes follow her movements. “It caught me off guard yesterday. I just wasn’t expecting it.”

“What? The photos?”

She nods as she picks up her wine glass again, taking another sip.

“Yeah,” she confirms as she swallows. “It was an amalgamation of an array of different emotions. There was a lot running through my mind.”

“Then pick one and go through them,” he shrugs as though it were obvious, her soft scoff unmistakable at the prospect that it was.

“Well, first off, Roman,” she offers a challenging eyebrow. “I was furious with you.”

“But I didn’t do anything. I told you nothing happened with her.”

“No,” she shakes her head. “Not that. Not because I thought there was something going on, but because it was another news story plastered all over the media about me. More attention that we really don’t need right now.”

He sits across from her utterly baffled, had fully expected some kind of declaration of jealousy or something but not this.

“You have to understand that the whole thing was careless and absolutely avoidable,” she tries to explain. “With everything else that people are calling me and judging me for, I didn’t need even more added on top of that. Much less pity. I detest the idea that the public are pitying me as the sad old woman who was swept away by a rich boy toy who then dropped her at the first opportunity.”

“People don’t think that,” he argues flabbergasted.

“Oh yeah? You wanna bet?” She contests. “Why do you think they ran the story, Roman? They’re trying to paint the picture that this thing between us is fickle, perhaps because of our ages, or perhaps as a ploy to make Waystar look bad, or even to make money – I don’t know. Regardless, it’s to cast doubt and there will be those who laugh at the prospect of this whole thing between us, or depict you as the callous playboy, leaving me as the tragic old woman pathetically waiting at home for you.”

He contemplates it; hadn’t even thought what people would have thought about her, was too caught up in how the public and Gerri had been perceiving him.

“I didn’t think of that,” he reveals quietly. “But it’s not like I meant it. I only went out with my friends and they made their own story out of that.”

“I get that. But you have to understand that considering you inadvertently caused it, I was angry at you. I didn’t say it was completely rational. Though in the future, you could limit your friendly affections to indoors where other people can’t have as much of an opportunity to photograph and then misconstrue it.”

She offers a small smirk as he pouts thinking about it.

“I suppose I could do that.”

“It had taken me most of the day yesterday to try and calm down from the whole thing, to accept that I had no control over what the public were going to think or what the media were going to print. I decided that I could only try and counter it with tonight’s plan so that people didn’t think that way. But this whole being in public eye is still very new for me,” she tries to explain.

“No,” he whines. “I get that. It can be fucking shitty sometimes. I should know.”

“I just want to avoid publicity where possible and unnecessary bumps in the road such as this are the banana peels that we really don’t need.”

“I get it. I get it. I need to be more careful,” he huffs, holding his hands up.

“Yeah,” she agrees, picking her wine glass up again. “More or less.”

“Pft,” he laughs a little. “I thought you were convinced Tabs and I were having some kind of fucking elaborate affair,” he laughs though it dies away when Gerri awkwardly shifts in her chair.

“I just didn’t know what to make of knowing that you hadn’t told me,” she divulges quietly.

“I didn’t deliberately not tell you.”

“I know that now,” she whispers quietly before she sighs deeply, leaning forward in her seat so she doesn’t have to speak too loudly. “You have to understand that there are a lot of, let’s say… historical habitual responses that I thought I had overcome but apparently haven’t quite yet.”

“What?” He asks scrunching his whole face up as he tries to understand that motherfucking riddle.

She closes her eyes, taking in a deep breath as he watches every single movement, trying to follow the little she’s giving him.

“Baird.”

Fuck. Why does he always forget about Baird?

“I’m not Baird—,” he quickly tries to defend before she cuts him off.

“I know that.”

“Then why have I been in the doghouse over that when you know I didn’t do anything?”

“I already told you it wasn’t because of that. The idea of that only hit me momentarily. I wasn’t thinking straight in those few moments. It was a shock and I was trying to wrap my head around the whole thing,” she tries to explain. “You have to understand that it’s not that I was upset even about the prospect of that. I’ve already told you that I was only upset with Baird on the first occasion and then with the emotional affair. The rest of time I wasn’t upset because I was able to just block it all out, put up my defences; a protective measure I would assume.”

“So, that’s what you did with me when you thought I was playing away?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. My focus shifted on being angry at being embarrassed by the whole public opinion rather than face up to the possible reality that history was repeating itself.”

“So, wait? Sorry. I’m confused. Did you think there was something going on or not?”

She twists her lips, biting the inside of her mouth as he gawks at her, waiting for her answer.

“Maybe for a minute,” she confesses as he frowns sadly. “Only because I couldn’t comprehend why you didn’t tell me. Then when you defended her with Karolina it made me second guess.”

“She’s my friend, Gerri. I didn’t want to drag her into it,” he explains exasperated.

“I understand that. My mind just wandered for a moment before I pushed it all away. But I trust you. I know you’re not Baird.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me this last night?”

“Because I was still angry at you for even putting me in this position.”

“Well, next time could you maybe like not make out I’m a big cheat and fucking tell me you’re just in a big fat oestrogen induced mood?”

“I wasn’t in an oestrogen induced mood, Roman,” she bites a little. “But yes, I will try and vocalise in the future, though I warn you, sometimes my silence is for good reason. You’ve never seen my temper and you don’t want to see it. Sometimes I just need time to calm down and rationalise.”

He moves his hand across the table, prying her tucked hand out from her elbow and pulling it into the middle to squeeze assuredly.

“You know I don’t want Tabitha,” he reminds her softly. “You know I only want you,” he declares lifting her hand up to kiss her knuckle.

“I know,” she says quietly, looking around, unsure if she should even reveal it. “But you always talk about how compatible you both were in every way but that way,” she says raising her eyebrows to explain her meaning. “Now that you can do… that, my mind just reeled that you could go back now.”

He laughs out loud as she tries to retract her hand angrily, realises she shouldn’t have made herself so vulnerable, shouldn’t have said anything at all.

“It’s not funny,” she says irritably as he tries to keep hold of her hand, trying to diminish his laughter.

“It’s completely ludicrous,” he smiles clasping her one hand tightly with both of his firmly now as he brings it up to his mouth to rest against his lips while her furious expression softens. “Do you think that’s the only difference between you and Tabitha?”

“No, I have a diploma,” she deadpans as he titters against her hand.

“You didn’t strike me as the self-conscious type, Kellman,” he mumbles against her hand.

“I’m not,” she refutes strongly. “I told you. I only thought that way for a moment until I applied logic. Even cold-hearted bitches are allowed to have their momentary human reactions.”

“You literally have nothing to worry about,” he reassures sweetly. “You and Tabitha are completely different and it’s you want. She’s just my bestie. After you, of course. You’d like her. She’s a good egg. Even offered to call you when this all blew up to let you know it was bullshit.”

“We have met before you know.”

“Yeah, but still.”

“I actually always liked her the best out of your girlfriends. She actually made an effort to talk to people instead of clinging to your side. Even sought out the unimportant people. Didn’t just go for the ones she thought she would have to impress. We had a conversation about my necklace once. She complimented it and started recommending this designer I might like. I think I ended up buying a few pieces from them if memory serves. I was sorry to hear about her dad.”

“Yeah, well. She never really got on with them; was a sore subject. She likes you, you know. She approves.”

“Well, thank god for that,” she retorts sarcastically.

“Well, you know, she said she thinks you’re smart, and a siren,” he adds mischievously, waggling his eyebrows.

“What is this obsession with me being a siren.”

“Facts are facts.”

“Maybe we could have her up to the apartment when we’re back from Vienna.”

“Could your raging jealousy take it?”

Gerri rolls her eyes, smiling as she looks back to him.

“You’re allowed to have friends, Rome. I’m not the jealous type.”

“Only on special occasions?” He taunts as she pulls her hand back to take a sip of her drink.

“Once every decade or so,” she jokes. “Just for a moment.”

“Don’t you have any friends? You don’t really talk about anyone. I’d like my own Tabitha to be jealous of,” he jibes, picking up his wine glass and whirling it in circles as he leans back in his chair.

“I work too much to have a large gaggle of women to lunch with. There’re a few women from the tennis club I see every so often. I see my brother whenever he’s in town,” she says quietly as she hesitates momentarily, his interest piquing. “I had a best friend. Linda. I met her in college. She used to live up in Connecticut though, so we would mainly call each other. Sometimes I would go up there whenever I had the time, or she would come here so we could brunch. But she knew me; every little thought I ever had, even the ones I sometimes didn’t know myself. She knew about Baird and the problems with the girls, would even listen to my complaining about Waystar shenanigans,” she laughs lightly before trailing off.

“So, what happened? You guys fall out or something?”

“She died,” Gerri reveals sombrely, gulping before fidgeting with the stem of her wine glass as he blows out a long breath in surprise. “Breast cancer. Seven and a half months after Baird died. Didn’t even tell me until a few months before because she thought I was going through too much with work, Baird’s death, and the girls coping with it. Little did she know, her death hit me so much worse than Baird’s.”

She looks up to Roman’s sad expression as he puts his glass down, stretches across the table to stroke his finger against her wrist.

“I’m sorry,” he says quietly.

“It sounds horrific, doesn’t it? Mourning your best friend more than your own husband.”

“I don’t think it’s that crazy considering what happened with Baird.”

“I wasn’t such a great friend to her. I should have seen her more when she was here. Could barely even be there for her when she was dying because of work. Found out in China that she had passed when her husband phoned me. I always regretted that I couldn’t be there. She had phoned me a few days before but with the time difference we just kept missing each other. I had to fight your dad for the morning off to attend her funeral. I think he only gave me it because he thought I was still not over Baird’s passing.”

“I’m sure she understood, Gerri,” he tries to comfort as he watches her trying to keep herself under control.

“She would have,” Gerri admits sadly. “Which makes it all the more heartbreaking. She was always so understanding and encouraging of my work. She always understood.”

“She sounds like a great friend.”

“I was lucky to know her.”

“I’m sure she felt the same way about you. I know I do,” he smiles weakly, his finger trailing across her watch strap.

“She would’ve liked you,” Gerri smirks.

“Who doesn’t?” He brags dramatically.

“She would have thought you were a scream.”

“I’m sure I would have liked her too. She sounds like a lovely lady.”

“She had a wild side too,” Gerri laughs. “Remember I told you I kissed Barry Gibb that one time? It was her who set that whole situation up. She would get us into the most insane situations. I even remember the night she told me about her diagnosis; we were in my apartment when she told me it was terminal, and she wasn’t going to bother with chemo. I was all tears, begging her to try for some kind of treatment, offering to pay for it, to use your dad’s connections to get the best in the world. She was all tears trying to comfort me, trying to explain to me that there was no hope. Then all of a sudden, she decided that she wanted to smoke. We’d both given up years ago, but she decided that she had no reason to give it up now and had a craving for one. Of course, I didn’t have any cigarettes, but she was reminiscing about these cigarettes we used to smoke in the 70’s, we didn’t even think they made them anymore. But we googled it and it turned out they sold them in this tobacconist uptown. So, she took us on this wild goose chase to get these cigarettes,” she giggles as he smiles listening to her recollection. “We went to the place and they didn’t even have them, but she wasn’t ready to give up. Made us walk to another one where we finally got them. Then we picked up the most expensive champagne we could find and went back to my apartment. Watched Saturday Night Fever, listened to disco music, smoked cigarettes, and drank champagne all night like we used to in college. It was one of the best nights of my life,” she admits, her voice hitching as she wipes away a stray tear. “She had that fire, you know? No one ever saw that in her. She always seemed so elegant, soft, distinguished on the outside, but she was a little firecracker on the inside. She just mellowed out when she got married. Her husband used to cheat. Her children were selfish and ungrateful. And she was a housewife, so she gave them all the attention she needed. Used to remind me that it didn’t matter if you were there or not, your kids would end up finding fault somehow. But she had that spirit in her, admitted to me that she only ever had it when she was with me, that her husband hated it. It made me detest him, of course. The life she could have lived without him.”

“She sounded like a hoot,” he smiles gently. “I’m genuinely sorry you lost her, Ger.”

“Well,” she shrugs shaking her head as though she were acting ridiculous. “She wouldn’t want me sitting here crying about it. I prefer to think of her in the days we shared that crummy apartment in college while smoking cigarettes and dancing to disco music.”

“That’s the best way, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” she breathes.

“Maybe we should have a tribute to her. You can dance to disco with me,” he grins. “I’ll even buy you the cigarettes. Now that I know some of the songs and I can take you out too. I’m still determined to find a club that plays them all. Get you into a NYC drag club.”

She laughs heartily at the prospect.

“Could you imagine?”

“I’ve been imagining it since that night in London,” he reveals sweetly. “It’s the happiest I’ve probably ever seen you on the dancefloor that night. I just wanted to create that moment forever when I first seen it.”

She looks at him sincerely, her hand clasping over his on her wrist.

“Rome,” she whispers emotionally.

“I did,” he shrugs. “Even tonight. It’s the first night we’ve been able to go out without hiding it. I’d planned to make it so special then we had to do this. The thought that it was going to be shitty because we were fighting was fucking bogus.”

“Well we’re not fighting now,” she smiles, her finger stroking the back of his hand.

“Is that a declaration?” He teases. “Game, set, and match?”

“No winners. No points. Game abandoned.”

“Good because I missed sleeping with you last night,” he smiles.

“Oh, yeah?”

“I think I may have gotten used to you.”

“Well if you can be on your best behaviour, that could be rectified tonight.”

“Could be?”

“Maybe a little more wine could convince me,” she flirts.

“Waiter!” He shouts dramatically looking over his shoulder as she laughs.

 

****

 

They leave the restaurant a damn sight cheerier than how they had entered it, deliberately not immediately ordering their car so they can stand outside in the cool night, giving another opportunity for the photographer to catch a glimpse of them.

Standing up against the wall of the restaurant, he clutches her hand looking across the street to Madison Square Park to see if he can spot the photographer around the benches as she resists the urge to look at her phone – not a good look for any possible photographs.

“I’m exhausted,” she comments absently, leaning against him before closing her eyes as the breeze swipes across her face, the bottle of wine she had drained taking its effect. He looks around to her tired form, her navy coat perfectly contrasting her pale skin. Letting go of her hand, much to her dismay, he quickly wraps his arm around her shoulders, nuzzling into the side of her face as she smiles.

“Want me to keep you awake?” He whispers against her ear, pushing her hair out of his path.

“There’s photographers watching,” she protests with a smile as she pushes into his mouth, the remnants of his cologne absorbing her.

“What was it Karolina said?” He mumbles his question, his mouth vibrating against her skin, travelling throughout her whole body.

“I’m not sure,” she whispers.

“Candid is okay?”

He pulls back from her neck, looking through her lenses into her eyes as he offers a challenging eyebrow, her own raising in return.  

Leaning in slowly, he presses his lips to hers, her hand moving up to the middle of his back as she returns it sincerely while he pulls her shoulder into him harder.

“I think that’s enough to get their attention,” she whispers when she pulls back with a smile.

“I don’t think it’s enough to get mine though,” he retorts, moving to stand in front of her, lightly pinning her up against the wall.

“Roman,” she warns. “Not here.”

“What not here? I’m not going to do anything,” he argues, pecking her lips before leaning a hand against the wall above her shoulder. “I was just going to tell you that I can’t wait to get you home,” he breathes a few inches away from her lips. “That I dream of my face being buried between your thighs and pressing my tongue up against you until you scream.”

“Roman,” she whispers heatedly in return, her palm firm on the cool fabric of his shirt as his skin begins to radiate through it.

“What?” He whispers back. “Are you too tired for me to fuck you so hard you can’t even remember your own name?”

“We can’t do this here,” she whispers though her eyes become progressively hazy.

“No one can hear us,” he breathes leaning in closer to peck her lips ever so gently again. “Not a soul.”

“You drive me crazy.”

“I want to drive you fucking crazy,” he offers wagging his eyebrows as his hand finds its way under her coat, his obscured fingers caressing her denim hip before sneaking up under her shirt to tease the sensitive skin at her waist, as his eye bore into her own.

“You’re playing with fire,” she warns through a strict whisper, though she doesn’t move to stop him in any way, her hips slightly rolling towards his own.

“Can you even wait until we get back to the apartment, Gerri? Or do you want me to touch you properly here?”

“Absolutely not,” she whispers firmly.

“What about in the car? You want me to touch you there?” He almost groans.

She doesn’t answer, her eyes sinking into his, her breathing becoming more ragged as the charge between them grows.

“Ms Kellman?” They hear behind him as he quickly retracts his hand before twisting around to see their driver.

“Hi Don,” Roman says excitedly, taking her hand again before he leads her to the open door.

“Can you put the partition up, Don?” She asks when Don gets in, Roman darting his eyes to her excitedly as Don agrees.

The second the partition goes up, she pounces on him, pornographically pushing her tongue in Roman’s mouth as he moans loudly.

“Be quiet,” she whispers as her leg hooks over his, returning her lips to his as his free hand finds her thigh, pulling her closer to him.

“You sure you want to do this?” He mumbles against her lips as her pelvis attempts to gyrate wildly against his thigh, his hand encouraging her rhythm, though his brain can only settle on how astounded he is that she’s actually doing this here in the back of her car, a fantasy that they had only talked about and she had always batted away forcefully.

“We can’t do the whole thing,” she breathes, undoing a few buttons at the top of her shirt so his mouth can further explore her clavicle. “Just touch me, Rome,” she pleads desperately.

“Happily,” he groans as she unbuckles her belt, undoing the button, and pulling the zip down, whilst his mouth instantly pushes her backwards to sit properly until he’s pressing up against her side. He watches as she chances a few glances to the partition, her worry clear though she doesn’t stop him when he quickly follows her instruction; burying his hand into the front of her underwear, immediately touching the pulsating spot waiting for him as her breath hitches against his ear, her focus no longer on the partition as his tongue wildly laps her neck. Her nails are harsh against the back of his scalp as her hips drive up on his hand, chasing that delicious friction she so needs.

He pushes his hand down further, swirling the juices around, about to push his fingers inside her before he hears her protest.

“No. Not that,” she pants into his ear desperately. “Not inside me. That’s for when we get back. Just this. Just this for now.”

“Whatever you want,” he groans, his teeth grazing her jawline. “Fucking siren.”

She moans erotically at that, leading his head back to her to invade his mouth whilst he continues his rhythm against her clit, following her speed whenever her hips speed up or slow down; her hand pushing firmly up against the ceiling of the car. It’s not long before she’s whispering his name in his ear, writhing and throwing her head back as she rides the wave of ecstasy against his fingers as she releases.

He further entices her as she tries to catch her breath when he removes his hand from her centre, moving his fingers up to his mouth to suck on them. Her eyes blacken at that, her mouth moving towards his to kiss him hard when he removes his fingers with a pop. She tries to reach her hand into his pants, his growing need evident against her, though he grasps her wrist, pulling back from her lips when she frowns.

“If you do anything here, I won’t be able to do anything when we get back,” he explains. “And I believe you want thoroughly fucked when we get in. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the mistress.”

She huffs out a laugh at that, kisses him quickly before lolling her head back to rest, eventually refastening her jeans and belt, pulling her seatbelt on before lying back exhausted against the seat, his hand securely in hers.

The remainder of the journey is torture for Roman as they seem to hit every single red light. He more or less drags Gerri through the foyer of the apartment building and into the elevator before he attacks her; his hands all over her as they are lifted up to their penthouse, his desperation to have her after all the build-up tension from the last day more than present.

His kisses continue on the back of her neck as she looks for the keys at the front door; expertly distracting her when she tries to open it as he continues to steal pecks from her lips. He quickly has her pinned up against the door when it’s closed, their coats more or less thrown in any direction when they have them torn off.

“What do you want, Gerri?” He whispers against her chest, her shirt all of a sudden fully open.

“I thought you were going to thoroughly fuck me?”

He smiles into her chest at that, thinks back to Tabitha’s comments from the other night about women just wanting a hard fucking every now and then, though he doesn’t realise he’s laughing against her chest until her hands pause on the back of his head.

“What’re you giggling at?” She smiles as his mouth moves back up to her neck.

“Just something Tabitha said,” he titters against her, his teeth grazing her skin.

“Oh?”

“She just said that sometimes you would want a rough fuck rather than all the lovey dovey sex, and it seems like she was right,” he laughs before moving up offer a passionate kiss.

However, he doesn’t see her frown at first, her eyes open and searching as she responds half-heartedly to the kiss whilst she tries to figure this out.

“Tabitha was talking about me having sex?” She asks pointedly when she nudges him back a little, he finally catching her questioning visage.

“No. Well, yeah but not like that,” he smiles, moving to kiss her again before she halts him with a hand to his shoulder.

“Wait a minute. What do you mean not like that?” She pushes further, her irritation clearly mounting, though he tries to keep her in the mood.

“Nothing, honestly,” he assures, trying to move in again.

“Roman,” she huffs, pushing him away from her fully now. “Why was Tabitha talking about me wanting a rough fuck? Have you been talking about our sex life?”

He puffs loudly, running his hand over his face as she stares him out her arms crossing, only further pushing her chest up enticingly though she doesn’t notice.

“No,” he groans exasperated. “Not really.”

“What do you mean not really?!”

“Just like my sex life, and hardly even then.”

“Your sex life is my sex life unless there’s something you want to tell me?” She challenges combatively.

“No, for fuck sake no!” He shouts loudly as she continues to furiously glare. “I just felt like I owed it to her to tell her something because it was a huge reason why we broke up. Like to explain like what we think the problem is now.”

“So, you decided to tell her how you fuck me to prove to her that you can do it now?” She asks wildly.

“No, I just—"

“You know I don’t want you talking about that with anyone Roman!”

“I know—”

“You know that I keep that part of my life completely private,” she shouts indignantly, continuing to cut him off as her volume increases with each assertion.

“I know that. I just—"

“You just, what?”

“I didn’t—"

“Please do explain to me how you could possibly tell her about it without telling her about it?”

“Oh my god, I fucking would if you stopped being so cunty for one second and let me speak!” He snaps quickly just as he takes in her mouth falling open in absolute shock at what he had just said, his own eyes bulging as he realises the mistake he’s made.

“No, no. I didn’t mean that,” he tries to backtrack quickly, waving his hands in front of him, though she’s already storming around him mutely, making her way towards the kitchen.

“Would you… Jesus Christ,” he shouts, chasing after her exasperated, watching as she makes her way towards the staircase to the spare bedrooms.

“It just fucking slipped out! I didn’t mean that you’re a cunt. I would never say that about you!”

“And yet you fucking did!” She shouts loudly, infuriated as she continues stomping across the floor. “I’ve never had anyone in my whole life call me that. I don’t know where the fuck you get off thinking I would tolerate that!”

“I wasn’t calling you a cunt. I was saying you interrupting me when I was trying to explain was, like, cunty. I don’t know—”

“In my lifetime I’ve been called everything. Shrew, bitch, whore, dyke, twat, but never fucking that. Not even by your dad who’s called almost everyone it,” she shouts, halting on the staircase before whipping around. “And saying it’s my interrupting you that is that is just the same fucking thing!”

The prospect that he’s just done something worse to Gerri that his dad hadn’t even stooped to was fucking brutal – even if he only misspoke.

“I meant it like shitty but cunty just slipped out,” he whines at the foot of the staircase, clinging onto the rail. “Come on Gerri. It was an accident.”

“Roman,” she barks loudly as she continues storming up the staircase. “I don’t want to fucking hear it! Just stay the fuck away from me!”

He stands there dumbfounded at the bottom of the stairs, watching as she goes out of his eyeline, her footsteps clumping on the hardwood floor before he hears the spare bedroom door slamming. The thought comes to him that he should follow her, that he should explain that it wasn’t what he meant, that he should tell her that he never broke her cardinal rule; was always super careful not to. He even considers saying it through the bedroom, but then he thinks back to what she had said about her temper at dinner, that she sometimes needed time to cool off. He contemplates just going in, letting her give him a thorough tongue lashing since it seems he may deserve it for his idiotic mishap. However, the thought of Gerri saying something horribly accurate about him that she actually means is a prospect too terrifying for him to possibly risk; something he doesn’t think he would be able to ever recover from if it happened

Instead he plods back towards the bedroom, takes his phone out of his pocket feeling utterly ashamed and sends her a text message after rewording it over and over fifteen times.

 

Roman:

I’m sorry. I genuinely didn’t mean it. Love you x

Chapter Text

She wakes up to her piercing alarm, her body protesting as she turns over to silence the thrumming noise that was encouraging on a throbbing headache. Face planting back into the pillow, she realises the weightiness of her head, the seeming sagging of her puffy face, the persistent pain reverberating throughout the entirety of every muscle in her carcass, how her heavy eyelids refuse to remain open.

She’s getting too old for this, that she knows. She’s no longer the spring chicken she used to be; ready to pounce out of bed and seize the day in the thrilling game of survival in the corporate world. It’s become progressively exhausting over the past few years, her maturing body persistently begging for another hour of sleep before she repeatedly denies the request, slugging out of bed before surviving the day on pints of coffee.

She wonders as she lies there, the pads of her fingers lightly caressing her palm, if she’ll ever be ready to give it all up. If she would really miss the early wake up calls, the lack of sleep, the fires she had to hose down, the thrill of being able to expertly evade the chop, a life that didn’t involve acquisitions, stock prices, and corporate masterminding.

Her mind moves over to the board. The fact that they still hadn’t given any indication on whether she would officially take the role of permanent CEO – the constant panic of that in her mind for the past few weeks amongst everything else. She hadn’t expected them to be fair, to make a decision solely based on her interview, on her experience, on her vision for the company, but the way they were drawing out this tirade to see if the media would change their opinion on her in light of the relationship was becoming ludicrous.

But the bottom line was that she did want to become CEO. She did want to implement her vision properly now that she had the free reign without having to wait for Logan’s archaic approval like a small devil on her shoulder. There were too many years sitting on the side lines, influencing the crown, putting her own camouflaged stamp on such a huge organisation.

If you had asked her a few years ago if she had wanted CEO, she never would have admitted it. There had been the obvious choice that Kendall would take over the company though she was never entirely certain he had it in him – she knew that she would be the new curia regis to the boy king and she had accepted that. She had money, respect, power in a way, and it had been enough. But as the last year had unfolded with doubt seeping onto Kendall’s abilities, Roman’s immaturity, Shiv’s stubbornness, Connor’s idiocy; it had seemed there was no clear runner. Her name inserted onto the paper had been the first time she had considered the prospect. All the what if’s had come into play.

What if Logan dropped dead of a heart attack tomorrow? What if he didn’t choose any of them? What if Logan was driven out? It was her name. She had to have some kind of game plan for that possibility. She had never not had a game plan for every possible outcome.

Though it was Logan’s convert reminders that had made her really fucking want it. His doubt of whether she would actually be able to do it, his chiding that it was never going to happen was not only insulting, but her provocation to realise herself how well she could do in the hot seat. It had become the motivator to make her want to prove the bastard wrong. She wanted to make a change, to succeed, to leave behind a legacy, and she wasn’t going to be able to do that lying around in her bed, well, the spare bed.

Roman had been that welcome surprise. She couldn’t do it alone, that she knew. An ally was what anyone in the big seat needed. A Roy was a perfect accomplice and Roman had fit the bill perfectly. Not only was he pliable, he wasn’t as self-involved as the others. He had it in him already – all he needed was development.

The boy prince had the intelligence to know he wasn’t omnipotent. Of course, he wasn’t the most intellectual, he wasn’t the most analytical, he wasn’t even the most focused, but most of all he knew that. What he did know was all of the people who were all of those things he wasn’t and not only that, he had the willingness to listen to them.

He knew the suits he had to go to for everything he needed, he knew how to delegate, he knew that his charm could convince the right people to do what he needed. The mark of a leader wasn’t necessarily to be an expert in everything but instead to have all the experts around you to advise you – Kendall had learned that the hard way. The Turkish deal had been the final proof she had needed to show that he had the instinct that he needed to make decisions based on all of the advice he would be given in the future. Of that, she could rest easy knowing that he would one day be a great leader and reach his true potential.

She looks over to the cold empty space next to her. It hits her that she’s started sleeping on a side of the bed even without him here. There had been a conscious decision to sleep in the middle of the bed after Baird’s death, though her work often ended up taking his place. Her irritation begins to rear its head when she considers Roman’s tactlessness last night. They had finally been back on an even keel and then he had to reveal that he had spoken to Tabitha about the one thing she had asked him not to. The referral to her as being cunty had been what tipped her over the edge.

She throws back the covers, making her way into the bathroom, aggressively picking up her toothbrush as she thought back to the week. How could they have been hit with so many hurdles within the first week of living together? How could he have fucked up on so many occasions in such a short space of time? If this was week one, what would the remainder of the month be?

Stepping into the shower, she carefully avoids her hair as she steps around the head, thinking back to what she had told him at dinner last night. There had been no denying she was telling the truth. Jealousy had only made a brief appearance before the fury over the opinions that would follow a news story like that took over. Then the embarrassment at being viewed as the tragic figure she was being portrayed as.

His behaviour had been innocent but careless nonetheless. There was no doubt that he had come a long way and yet still had so much to learn.

To say that she had been beyond furious last night after he had called her behaviour cunty would be an understatement. It had not only angered her though; it had astounded her. Of all of the words that had been thrown at her through the years, that was never one of them. Now that she was calmer, she thinks she believes that he didn’t mean to use the word, that it was a common word used in his vocabulary, in the vocabulary of his entire family for that matter. To deduct that it could have slipped out, wouldn’t exactly be an anomaly. She, however, wasn’t prepared to take the use of it lightly, was prepared to set the boundary pretty staunchly that she could give his slip up some leeway this time, but that she would not be so kind about its use towards her in the future.

More than that though, setting his poor choice of words aside she had been flabbergasted that he had the foresight to call her behaviour out. She had interrupted him several times, hadn’t allowed him to explain anything, and well, been shitty before he could. Had she not only a few hours before agreed to let him explain his side of the situation without jumping to conclusions? She herself had failed at the first hurdle of her own promise, though she wasn’t quite ready to admit that to him quite yet.

Baird had never called her out when she did that. In the few times they did come to blows it was all her furiously screaming, all him disinterestedly shrugging. At no point did he ever call her out on her shitty behaviour. Well, not to her face. Logan’s new revelation had given some food for thought in whether Baird simply vocalised that to others though.

She wraps the towel around herself when she gets out of the shower, walks into the bedroom when she realises she has nothing to change into. When she had sneaked into the bedroom yesterday morning at 3am as Roman slept deeply, she had been too cautious of waking him to grab anything other than the first things she had seen. How could she have known she would be up here for more than one night anyway?

She huffs at the prospect of having to do it again, aware that he would be stirring awake by now, as he seemed to do now around this time. There was no other option, she couldn’t go into the office with the same suit on two days in a row.

Shit. She’d left the garment bag in the back of the car last night anyway. Well, she definitely couldn’t go in jeans.

“Buck up Kellman,” she mumbles to herself as she moves to pick up her phone before moving downstairs.

When she reaches their bedroom door, she creeps quietly to the bathroom after closing the door mutely behind her. Changing into her dressing gown and discarding the towel into the hamper, she finally makes her way into the bedroom, skulking over to her drawers.

“Hey,” she hears him croak behind her as her face scrunches up.

“Good morning,” she fires back after a loud puff, though the realisation that she no longer needs to be quiet and can quickly get her clothing and leave hits her as she rifles through her drawer searching for a pair of nylons.

“Uhm…,” she hears him behind her, can practically see him sitting up in the bed, his eyes bleary, his chest bare, scratching the back of his head as he further ruffles his hair. “Did you sleep well?”

She closes her eyes, taking in a large inhale as she hears the caution in his voice, realises that he’s just trying to make things better as she continues to sulk.

“Yeah,” she sighs out, continuing her search. “So hard I woke up feeling like a dead weight.”

“Oh yeah?” His voice raises hopefully. “Well you didn’t get much sleep and were up so early the night before, so you probably needed it.”

“Probably.”

Finally, she pulls out a pair of nylons that don’t seem to be marred in any way, noting that Maria could go through this drawer whilst they were away, replace the nylons so she didn’t have to go through this every day.

“Look, Gerri,” he huffs exasperated, “I didn’t mean what I said last night.”

“Uhu,” is all she offers as she moves up to her underwear drawer.

She hears a huge groan from him, looks over her shoulder to see him fall back against the pillows, his hands burrowed into his eye sockets.

“Come on, man!” He shouts through a grunt. “I wasn’t saying you were a cunt. I wouldn’t fucking say that.”

She picks the first set of underwear she can see, throws it onto the growing pile in her arms before she looks around to him with the most disinterested expression she can muster.

“Wouldn’t you?” She challenges; has no idea why she does when she had already decided that it had likely been a slip up.

“No, I fucking wouldn’t!” He shouts, prying his hands away to look at her, his eyes so genuine as he pleaded with her to just believe him; her resolve crumbling.

“I can accept that it maybe slipped out, Roman, but let’s be clear… I will never tolerate being called that. Ever. Not by anyone and especially not by you.”

His face scrunches up as though he is offended.

“What the fuck does that mean? Especially not by me?”

“It means that if I ever expected it from anyone, it would be a stranger, someone who thought very little of me. Not from the man I share a home and a bed with,” she explains with a quirked eyebrow before moving determinedly to the closet to pick out a suit.

“Right,” he whispers, biting his lip as it scrambles around in his head.

“I’m going back upstairs,” she declares when she leaves the closet, moving towards the door.

“Don’t,” he moans, sighing deeply again. “Come on, please. You don’t need to go upstairs. All your shits here. Look, I genuinely didn’t mean to say you were cunty. I grew up in fucking Britain. They say that shit like it’s a fucking endearment. I meant to say like you were being, ya know, shitty, or sucky, or poopy. I don’t fucking know. Unfair! You were being unfair,” he settles on with relief as she simply stands by the bed watching him silently.

“I understand that now,” she decides. “But Roman, I won’t ever accept that as an excuse in the future. That to me, is unforgivable.”

“I know. I know. I get it. I’m sorry,” he rabbles quickly. “I won’t do it again. I promise, okay? Can’t we just call a truce for now? Go into work together and have a fucking normal day and then we can talk about the rest of it tonight maybe? Please?”

She narrows her eyes towards him as she thinks. She didn’t want to continue this way, didn’t want the life she had with Baird. They may as well end this whole thing right now if she were going to repeat history. She’d already read and lived the end of that bitter story and it wasn’t kind to her.

“Fine. Truce for now. I’m leaving at six this morning though,” she tells him quickly as she walks further into the room, sitting the clothing down onto the end of the bed. “So, if you want to be ready by then…,” she pouts, running her palms across the suit she’s carefully laying out. “…that’s up to you.”

He looks down to his watch, quickly calculating how long he has to get ready.

“I can do that,” he declares quickly, jumping out of bed before he stops at the bathroom door and looks back at her as she walks towards her vanity.

“Gerri?” He says as his voice wavers a little, her attention drawn to him as she picks up on his nervousness. “I still love you, you know.”

She sighs deeply, her fist momentarily biting into the vanity table as her face softens. The expectation in that statement screams everything she had forgotten about him, as he waits with a gulp to see if she’ll even respond with the expected statement. He wasn’t trying to reassure her; he was trying to get her to reassure him. She forgets how innocent he can be, how new he was to relationships, that he would genuinely expect her to stop loving him over a few nonsensical arguments.

“I still love you too, Rome,” she tells him firmly, though the softness in her voice is not entirely absent.

He gives a small smile as he finally goes into the shower, her own reflection her only judgement as she listens to the water pelting against the glass from within the bathroom.

 

****

 

He’d escaped much of the expected awkward conversation with her as she had phoned Maria as soon as she had stopped responding to her emails.

As he listens to both Gerri and Maria nattering away (well Gerri because he could hardly make out what Maria was saying), he wonders when the hell Maria starts her shift or if she’s just on call 24 hours a day. He looks at his watch, realising it’s 6.10am. Maria must be getting paid a shit load.

“From what I gather, Vienna is unpredictable at this time of year,” he hears Gerri explaining, his attention homing in as she mentions tomorrow’s destination.

He had been wondering if they were even still going if he were being honest; had been waiting for the inevitable moment that Gerri would tell him that she’d rather organise a Waystar filing cabinet than enjoy a European city with him.

“Sometimes it’s scorching and then other times it’s pouring from what the analytics online said for April. So, I’ll need enough to cope with the possibility of both. Though I suppose if it’s raining, we’ll just be in and out of buildings anyway,” she continues as she nods at whatever Maria was saying on the other end of the phone whilst his heart starts to calm at her mention of “we’ll” – the prospect of him being left behind as she explored the city herself another possibility that had invaded his thoughts in the past few days.

“Yeah,” she continues. “If you can just make sure that those two coats are back from the drycleaners. I want to take them with me.”

He smiles, looking out of the window, wondering what glorious coats from her collection were going to be making an appearance this time.

“Uhu. I’ll probably take the best of the print shirts as well, yeah. If you can just lay them out after steaming them. I’ll be home at 6ish, so I can pack it all myself anyway. Just make sure that the second suitcase is over from the apartment,” she orders as he remembers something.

“Your water bottle,” he whispers, nudging her arm holding up the phone to her ear.

“Hold on, Maria,” she interrupts mid-sentence. “What?” She whispers to him.

“Your water bottle,” he reminds her. “That you left at your apartment.”

“Oh, yeah. Thanks honey,” she says quickly, returning to the phone as he grins widely, sure that she didn’t even realise what she had said though it’s welcome to his ears.

“Maria, yeah, if you could see if my water bottle is there too. The one with the black top. I haven’t had the chance to get another one and this would save me from having to,” she explains as she runs her hand absently under the hem of her skirt to scratch the bottom of her thigh. His eye focused on her hand as he listens to her nails scratching rhythmically against the fabric, Maria’s tone jabbering on the other end of the phone in the background.

“That’s fine. Just make sure you get there before the cleaner’s leave,” she instructs abruptly, removing her hand from under her skirt as his attention goes immediately to her face, his eyebrows furrowed as he recognises her pissed off tone. “I need you to speak to them, well, give them a thrashing really. The spare bed in the first bedroom upstairs wasn’t made up yesterday after it was slept in the night before,” she tells Maria resolutely as his eyes widen at her being so candid with Maria about one of them sleeping in the spare bedroom.

“I would assume they’re not cleaning those rooms every day when they should be. There was dust on the bedside table too. So, if you could give them the whooping they need, I would be grateful,” she orders as he listens to Maria agree on the other end. “Let them know that this is their final warning and if there is another instance their services will no longer be required. Every room should be cleaned and dusted every day and I expect that to be checked by their supervisor on a daily basis. In the meantime, we should both do random checks for the foreseeable.”

He listens to Maria rabble on the other end as he looks out of the window listening to her rounding up the conversation.

“Okay,” she sighs. “Great. Thanks, Maria. Bye.”

“Problems with the cleaning service?” He asks as she hangs up the phone, refreshes her email inbox. “They cleaned the whole house top to bottom last week before you came over.”

“Well not well enough because it’s a mess. They’re not doing their jobs,” she states distractedly.

“Fuck them,” he declares callously. “Just fire them.”

She looks around to him with a small smile as he shrugs before she turns back to her phone.

“They’ll get one more chance. They likely became lazy when they realised no one was checking up on their work. If they’re still lacking, I’ll dismiss them and get my team in.”

He nods, looking out the window, not caring either way who the fuck cleaned the house as long as she was content.

The uncertainty over the trip to Vienna penetrates his mind again, his need for confirmation too important so he could shut down all the other possible outcomes that kept arising in his little pea brain.  

“So,” he begins, trying to sound as cool as possible. “We’re still going to Vienna?”

He inverts his lips, chewing on them, looking straight ahead, trying to be as flippant as he can muster.

“Is there a reason we aren’t?”

“Uhm, I don’t know,” he shrugs. “I didn’t know after—”

“Don!” She interrupts him abruptly as Don looks into the rear-view mirror. “Could we have the partition up, please? Thanks.”

Roman begins to bite his lip harder as they both wait out the humming of the partition rising at snail pace.

“Yes, Roman,” she says matter-of-factly as soon as it has risen. “I had planned on still going to Vienna.”

“With me, right?”

“No, with Ray,” she deadpans. “Yes, with you.”

“Okay,” he accepts, holding his hands up in the air.

There is another silence as he looks down to his phone, sees his email inbox filling up, rolling his eyes and locking the phone to look back out to the passing world.

“You think Maria will think it’s weird that we slept apart?” He asks twisting his lips.

“How could she possibly know we did that?”

“You told her?”

“I told her the bed was unmade. For all she knows, we have a guest staying there,” Gerri says flatly as she types out a text message to her assistant.

“Ahh,” he drones. “Wise.”

 

****

 

The day passes by quickly, the story running mid-morning to counter the pictures of Roman and Tabitha, their own photographs very candidly showing how there was absolutely no trouble in paradise between Gerri and Roman. Though one of the Pierce’s trashy outlets, of course runs a story with the same photos but a new obnoxious headline.

Young Roy wants to have his cake and eat it?

That she should have expected, though it doesn’t bother her as much as she knows it would have yesterday. She had yet to gauge Roman’s take on this one since he was out at a work lunch regarding the upcoming launch of the online platform.

The optimism of a semi-normal day quickly falls away though when she sees Karolina storming into her office in the mid-afternoon, her expression daunting as it always was when she was about to drop a bomb.

“What now?” She asks before Karolina can even utter a word. “Don’t tell me. Pictures of Ray chained up with a ball gag? Kinky boar on the floor games with Greg and Tom?” Gerri offers with a wry smile when Karolina pummels through her door.  

“I wish,” Karolina huffs, charges towards her.

That piques Gerri’s interest as Karolina reaches her, holding her phone out hastily, Gerri adjusting her glasses properly as she prepares for the worst.

The photograph she sees is of herself and Roman walking down a dark street hand in hand. The focus though of this now compelling photograph, was Roman’s beaten and bruised face. The night that Roman had told Logan. The peak of Roman’s injuries on display as she walks alongside him away from Starbucks.

How did these vultures get a hold of this? Why had they been sitting on it for so long?

She huffs, about to hand Karolina back the phone when Karolina holds her hands up.

“There’s more. Scroll down,” Karolina frets, walking around the desk to lean her fists on it facing Gerri as she examines the remaining photos.

There is an array of them. A burst of various angles of them walking down the street, Roman looking for oncoming traffic in a few, Roman clearly shouting what looked like at her in a couple though she knew better. Then more photos of them in the park, him hunched over with her arm around his back as she tried to comfort him. She supposed these ones at least didn’t make it look like they were clashing. Though that would hardly stop the spiralling that Roman would inevitably experience when he sees all of these – the flashes of the panic attack that ensued when the video of Argestes was leaked flooding her mind.

“Okay,” Gerri sighs resigned, passing the phone over to Karolina who looks at her pointedly. “Are they published?”

“No,” she shakes her head. “One of my connections contacted me when the photographer tried to sell them to him. It seems they’re going to the highest bidder. The photographer, a guy called, Jim Davies, seemed to be giving pointers on the story that should be run alongside it.”

“Oh?” Gerri offers with her eyebrow arched curiously.

“It seems he’s suggesting that it shows how Roman is back to his old ways. Fights, particularly the idea of drunken brawls as suggested in these photos, further implying other antisocial behaviour. Womanising, drugs, binging on alcohol. Behaviour that signals that he is no longer fit to run this company in such an high capacity,” Karolina reveals, her eyes trained on Gerri’s reaction.

“Wow. Okay,” Gerri nods slowly, though her head is whirring with the falseness in all of those points. “Since when do photographers offer opinions on the stories?”

“Since never.”

“Huh,” Gerri frowns, her tongue protruding into her cheek.

“So, are you going to tell me what really happened so I can try and spin this?” Karolina says a little pointedly.

“You don’t think it’s a fight?”

“No, I don’t,” Karolina deadpans. “So, what’s the real story?”

“That’s not my story to tell,” Gerri says quietly, folding her arms in front of her, tightly biting into the desk before her.

Karolina huffs, nodding her head quickly as she tries to wrap her head around this.

“So, what do you want to do about them?”

“Get Roman in here. It’s his decision more than anyone’s,” Gerri states calmly as the swirling of uncertainty begins in her stomach.

“Do you want to tell him or should I?”

She thinks about that for a moment; wonders if it would be better coming from her or if her inability to publicly fawn over him about this right now would make a clinical blow of this from her even worse for him.

“You should tell him. You have the facts,” Gerri decides as she goes onto her intercom to Claire.

“Claire, could you ask Roman to come in here please?”

She watches as Claire gets up, making her way over to Roman’s office immediately.

“It seems like one thing after another at the moment,” Karolina observes as Gerri brings her folded hands up to her mouth, considering that statement.

“I thought that it was because we were more in the public eye just now? We’re a point of interest?” She asks Karolina confused.

“Yeah, but—,” Karolina begins before Roman comes prancing into the room.

“What am I being summoned to the headmistress’s office for this time?” He quips breezily. “If this is about flipping off the guy in the street after lunch, then all I can say is that he had it coming,” Roman shrugs as he stands next to Karolina, his arms contorting as his hands settle on his hips.

“No, Roman,” Karolina ventures quietly as Gerri quickly licks her lips, looking at them both worriedly. “A contact of mine sent me over some photos today and we’re not quite sure what to do with them.”

She holds the phone out to him as he sees the first image instantly looks up to Gerri, her soft eyes and small quirk of her lips trying to offer all the comfort she can right now. He lets out a long groan, twisting in a circle and running his hand through his hair as he scrolls down the phone to look at all the photos, wandering around her office as he does so.

“No one has them at the moment,” Karolina tries to explain. “It’s going to the highest bidder. We could buy them, obviously. There’s something off about the whole thing though. I have a hunch that they’re going to come out eventually anyway. I’m not sure why. I just get a bad vibe.”

Roman continues wordlessly holding the phone, biting his upper lip as both Gerri and Karolina regard him, waiting for any comment before he passes the phone back to her. He stands, staring off into the Manhattan view as Karolina looks to Gerri for some input; Gerri watching Roman, absolutely aware of everything running through his mind.

“Roman?” Gerri ventures softly.

“Karolina,” he barks surprisingly. “Can you give us a minute? Just a minute.”

“Sure, Roman,” Karolina says quietly, already making her way towards the door. “I’ll be right outside when you’re ready.”

“Does she know?” Roman asks bluntly without looking towards Gerri as soon as the door closes.

“No,” she refutes quickly. “She asked because she guessed it’s not a bar fight, but I told her it’s not my place to reveal anything. She wants to know though so she can try and control the optics if it does come out.”

“It won’t come out,” he decides obstinately. “Buy the photos. Offer twice the asking price. I’ll buy them if it’s out of our range.”

“It’s not about the money, Rome. You heard Karolina, something’s off about this,” she tries to soothe. “It reeks.”

“I don’t give a fuck. I don’t want it coming out, so we buy the photos and make him sign an NDA or something.”

“Rome,” she sighs. “If this comes out, it could harm your reputation. Have you thought anymore about pressing charges? Going public with this? Did you talk to your therapist about it?”

He looks up to her quickly, his eyes full of hurt; something she didn’t expect to see there.

“Are you fucking serious?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“What? And let those fucking sharks tear me apart in the media? Make out I’m a fucking victim and not fit to run the company because of it? I’ll never make CEO or Chair if that comes out!”

“That’s not true.”

“Yes, it fucking is. You know that and I fucking know that. It makes me look fucking weak. I’d have a better chance if I just looked like I went on a drunken rampage than the truth. I got through that before already. It doesn’t even matter. It’s not coming out.”

“It might come out anyway, Roman. Even if we buy the photos, the photographer is suggesting that the photos be used to make out you’ve went back to your old irresponsible and turbulent ways and aren’t fit to run the company. Not to mention, some of the photos make it look like you’re shouting at me, that there’s an issue with our relationship. They could easily try and run with that too. Simply not use the park photos. We still haven’t heard back about our relationship decision nor the CEO interview, and even an untrue unfavourable story about you could hinder both of those decisions.”

“Oh! There it is!” He scoffs, laughing sarcastically as he walks towards the window shaking his head in disbelief.

“There what is?” She asks sternly.

“You’re more fucking worried about how this would make you look. That it would make you look like a victim. That you’ll lose out on the CEO job if you’re associated with me. You’re happy for me to look the victim as long as you don’t! You’re happy for me to be fucked here as long as you aren’t.”

“That just isn’t fucking true,” she frowns offended.

“It fucking is!”

“Keep your voice down,” she warns as his lip curls into a snarl. “I want you to have some closure on this. I want this bullshit bad press pointed at the right person who fucking deserves it.”

“What? My dad?”

“Yes, your dad!”

“Keep your voice down, Gerri,” he taunts childishly as she huffs angrily.

“If he gets the shitty press, then so do I. It goes hand in hand.”

“Not necessarily.”

“Look, this isn’t up for discussion. It’s not going public,” he decides finally as he walks towards the door. “Karolina!” He shouts, beckoning her in, waiting for the door to close before he speaks.

“Kill it,” he orders resolutely. “Buy the photos. Get him to sign a billion NDAs or whatever. The photos shouldn’t be seen, and no story whether truth or fiction should see the light of day.”

“Roman, we don’t know who else has these. If my source has them, other media outlets probably do too. They might think it’s worth their while to publish them anyway without owning them, simply giving credit to this guy. They could willingly incur the backlash, retribution, and injunctions if it sells the story,” Karolina tries to explain as Gerri rubs her forehead in exhaustion, his previous insults ruminating in her mind. Is that really what he thought of her? After everything?

“Then buy the photo and sue whoever the fuck uses it. No, just pay the fucking photographer more to find out who he’s already given the photos to. Get them all to sign NDA’s not to reveal them. Pay them all off. I don’t care. Just make it happen.”

“What’s going on here?” Karolina asks sceptically, watching Roman’s angry tirade throughout Gerri’s office.

“Nothing,” Roman blurts furiously. “Just kill it, okay?”

He swings the door open, stomping back to his office, leaving Karolina gobsmacked staring at Gerri who has her head in her hands.

“It must be bad,” Karolina says quietly.

“It’s bad, but it’s not what you think,” Gerri decides on calmly, looking up to her. “Just do everything you can to stop it from coming out for now. I’ll try and speak to him later.”

“Okay,” Karolina breathes.

“Get rat fucker Sam on this,” Gerri decides. “See what he can dig up. You’re right. There’s something off.”

“Right.”

Karolina starts quickly typing on her phone, sending an email as she exits the office, leaving Gerri in a bigger pile of shit she had ever anticipated being in when she walked in that door this morning.

Not only was it not a calm day, it was a clusterfuck of a day.

 

****

Radio silence.

That’s what she had received from him for the rest of the day.

When his blinds had unsurprisingly been lowered around his office, she had determined that space and privacy was likely what he needed. He didn’t respond to the text message she had sent asking if he was okay – a massive move on her part considering how offended she had still felt from his words today on top of everything from last night.

Still, he hadn’t uttered a word to her when she had showed up at his door asking if he was ready to go home, had simply shut down his computer and wordlessly collected his briefcase and coat, following her out of the building.

She took his silence as a personal choice. That he wasn’t ready to talk; was still processing this whole thing, still ruminating the consequences of the photograph's existence, was probably afraid that it would all come out and throw a spanner in the works. She had allowed him his silence, had simply got on with the work she was still able to do in the car, even sat through a dinner alone when he had muttered he wasn’t hungry, opting to go to the gym downstairs instead. A sure sign that he wasn’t taking this well.

She didn’t know if she preferred this version or the anxiety attack that had ensued the last time this hit. Neither, she supposes was the most ideal. Calm rationalisation that was communicated to her was probably the optimal outcome she decides as she bites into the chicken Maria had left for them.

But Roman was a human. A living being with emotions that couldn’t be tamed nor controlled when something so traumatic was hitting him over and over on a regular basis, and as much as she wanted to direct, she had some understanding that she couldn’t puppeteer his reactions to things that affected him. Her role was to be there to help comfort and steer to the most ideal outcome with the least negative results.

Space was clearly what he needed right now. Blowing off steam in the gym would help she hopes, then they would talk when he got in.

 

She finds one of her suitcases already half packed, all of the most delicate items rolled perfectly into place when he comes in. The music is blaring through his headphones when he blasts into the bedroom, still panting and dripping in sweat as he makes his way towards the bathroom.

“How was your workout?” She tries to ask though he doesn’t answer, the headphones drowning out any semblance of a conversation she tries to make. Her eyes roll back towards the suitcase as rock music begins to blare through the speaker he had set up for her in the bathroom, the shower now running.

She turns around ready to close the door in an attempt to block the noise from reverberating throughout every cell encased in her entire skull, until she realises that he’s closed the door already. He’d never closed the bathroom door on her; on the contrary he had always made a spectacle of gallivanting openly around without a care in the world.

It unsettles her; makes her wonder why all of a sudden he was shutting her out, that he might actually be the one angry with her for some reason. Her own fury rises as she realises that she’s the one who should be fucked off here considering all of the insults he had thrown her way in the past 24 hours.

Her back is already up when the music ceases in the bathroom, the shower no longer running, Roman remerging in a towel, scuffing another one over his head.

“How was your workout?” She forces herself to ask again, though her tone is much more pointed than last time.

“Fine,” he shrugs, roaming over to his drawers as he drops a towel on the floor, Gerri’s eyes now homing in on his clear act of defiance.

She sighs deeply, attempting to collect all the resolve she’s going to need to continue this conversation.

“I left the chicken in the oven when you’re ready,” she tries again, as he pulls out a pair of pyjama bottoms.

“Not hungry,” he mumbles as he slams the drawer closed, opening the next one to retrieve a t-shirt.

She can feel every muscle in her neck tensing, her jaw clenching as she watches his childish behaviour.

“Okay,” she huffs. “I should have some room left in my second suitcase if you can’t fit anything into yours.”

“Swell,” he offers sarcastically as he slams the second drawer closed, sauntering over to the side of the bed opposite her.

“Have you done any packing?”

“Nope,” he answers flippantly, throwing his clothes on top of the perfectly placed silk shirts she had decided not to take – though he didn’t know that.

“I think we should talk about today,” she barks frustrated, rolling her pyjama shirt into a perfect ball before placing it into the suitcase.

“What’s there to talk about?” He shrugs nonchalantly, throwing his towel to the floor before picking up his pyjama bottoms to step into them.

She scoffs, unsure how she’s going to go forward with this. Her children had been the only ones who had acted this way with her when they were teenagers and it was easy to deal with then. All she had to do was raise her voice and they would quickly fall into line, their fear of her too strong for them to continue.

However, Roman was not a teenager, nor was he her child.

“There’s a lot to talk about. You clearly have a problem and it’s probably best to get it out in the open.”

“What?” He looks up to her pouting tauntingly. “Like how you’ve been so forthright with all your issues in the past few days? Gimme a break.”

Her teeth start grinding at that, her eyes narrowing as she realises, he’s completely fucking right.

“Well, if you don’t want this vacation to be a fucking disaster,” she says deciding to ignore his observation and deflect, “I would suggest that perhaps we should talk about what your fucking issue is,” she bites, her eyes darting to the towels on the floor again as she resists the urge to pick them up.

“By all means, you first,” he goads combatively, reaching for his top before he quickly pulls it over his head.

She exhales slowly, closing her eyes momentarily, sending a quick prayer to the god she doesn’t even believe in to send any semblance of patience to get through this conversation because it clearly wasn’t going to be pretty.

“This isn’t going to go anywhere if you continue with this confrontational attitude.”

“Fuck,” he scoffs throwing his hands up in the air. “Do I do anything right?”

He walks past both towels, around the bed and behind her until he’s out of the bedroom walking down the hallway.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She shouts after him, following him quickly.

“Well shit Gerri,” he sing songs irritatingly. “I’m just an eternal fuck up, aren’t I?”

“I never said that,” she refutes as he swerves into the living room, heading directly for the drinks cart.

“Mmm, you kind of did,” he taunts as the clinking of the bottle against the tumbler sharply bolts through every nerve within her.

“How did I say that?”

“Roman, you’re such a fuck up because a photographer caught you hugging your friend. You should have known better,” he begins to impersonate her juvenilely. “Roman, you’re such a fuck up because your friend asked you about our sex life and you shut her down, but she kept talking shit anyway and then you had the audacity to tell me what she said. Roman, you’re such a fuck up because you don’t want to press charges against your own father because it’ll ruin your entire reputation. Roman, you’re fucking up this argument by being so confrontational.” He finally stops the whining tone, taking a sip of his drink as she looks on tensely. “How am I doing? Did I miss anything out?” He asks seriously. “Feel free to add in your own additions to the never-ending list.”

“Is that really how you think I see you?” She breathes stunned, her wounded reaction shining through. “After everything I tell you to counter that on almost a daily basis?” She fires at him angrily, leaning heavily on back of the couch as he drains the remainder of his scotch.

“Roman, you’re such a fuck up because I have to pander to your shitty self-loathing all the time,” he whines again, raising his eyebrows at her to further prove his point before pouring himself another drink.

She’s speechless for a moment after that, dumbfounded that he really thought that of her, fully processing what he’s trying to suggest.

“When have I EVER said that I have an issue with building you up?” She shouts forcefully as he groans into his glass, taking another gulp. “When have I ever complained about that?!”

“You just said it right there,” he shrugs, spluttering on his drink a little as he falls into an armchair, propping his feet up on a coffee table.

“No,” she contests harshly. “I said that I build you up as a counter to your suggestion that I only depict you as an eternal fuck up!”

“Almost every day,” he reminds her of her own words lightly with a taunting smirk.

“Yes, I did say every day. As a reminder of how I do it on a consistent basis!”

“What a hardship for you,” he spits.

“It’s not a hardship for me. I know how hurt you are. I know how wounded you’ve been by your dad and all of them.”

“Victim,” he breathes into his glass, clinking it into front teeth.

“Jesus Christ,” she groans loudly, rubbing her face harshly. “This isn’t getting us anywhere. Why don’t you just tell me what the fucking issue is?”

“What issue?”

“What fucking issue?” She repeats exasperated. “You’ve been a fucking asshole today.”

“Ohh,” he taunts. “Look who’s calling who names now.”

“Cut the bullshit, Roman. What’s the fucking issue?”

“You want to know what the fucking issue is?” He barks furiously, pulling his legs down and battering his glass onto the table.

“Yes, I fucking do,” she shouts back as he stands up energetically.

“You didn’t have my fucking back,” he seethes.

I didn’t have your back?” She asks astonished, her hand pressed to her chest. “I’ve always had your fucking back!”

“Then why the fuck would you even fucking suggest that I press charges and go public with this,” he shouts heatedly. “You know how I feel about that. You know I can’t. And you know what that fucking means for me, Gerri, and yet all you’re thinking about is your own reputation.”

“How fucking dare you! That’s not what I’m thinking about at all!” She shouts, tightening her grasp on the back of the couch as he faces her from across the room, his chest heaving. “I’m thinking about you! I’m thinking of how if this fabricated story gets out that it could ruin everything we’ve been working towards. I’m thinking of how your dad wins again in ruining everything for us and he doesn’t even know it! And even if I was partially thinking of me, is that so fucking wrong? That I don’t want both of us to be fucked by this!”

“You’re thinking of the board ruling against you being CEO because you’re associated with me!”

“Roman, if I was worried about that, this relationship wouldn’t even have started. You’ve already previously had this reputation!”

“Nice Gerri,” he sighs, shaking his head resigned. “Real fucking nice.”

“It’s fucking true, though. If I was worried about my reputation being damned by this fake story of your sordid antics, it already would have been, from the past you being like that. But this isn’t about me! This is about you! I don’t want false fucking rumours going around about you, ruining your reputation, causing you more stress.”

“Causing you more stress,” he bites back.

“Causing us both more stress, Roman,” she fires just as quickly, her own chest heaving. “Why should we go through this unnecessary stress when you haven’t done anything wrong? What he did to you was sick and abhorrent, and yet you want both of us to further suffer from that when we don’t have to!”

“I’d suffer if it came out!”

“Roman, it’s 2020! People don’t victim shame anymore. The media would be drowning in sympathy for you, especially considering the evidence that’s already out there from the CCTV proving it!”

“I don’t want their sympathy!” He screams at the top of his lungs. “They might not victim shame me in the media, but they would in private. I would be fucked! But more importantly you would be fucked and we both know that’s what the issue is here,” he argues again, though she can see in his eyes, he’s fishing, that he’s not convinced in what he’s saying, that he’s trying to figure out if that’s really what’s behind her thoughts; he wants her to refute it.

“You know,” she puffs. “I’m really starting to resent you saying that. After all this time and after almost a year in this relationship, you really think I would throw you under the bus. After everything we’ve been through together, you really think that I would be selfish like that, when I’ve already told you that if the board rules against our relationship that I’d walk so that you still had your chance.”

“I never asked you to do that,” he retorts, his anger dissipating.

“The point is you never had to. My track record leaves no doubt of my loyalty to you.”

“Neither does mine and yet you make out I’m a fucking moron who can’t tie his own shoelaces, destined to fuck up everything to your detriment. It’s like you’re waiting for me to disappoint you.”

“That’s not true,” she gasps, her eyes wide.

“Isn’t it? You don’t even give me a chance to explain anything when you find out something looks bad,” he explains as his fury builds back up. “You just jump to the fucking conclusion that I must have fucked up since I’m some big fucking clown. You don’t give me the chance to even tell you what really happened and even when I do, you doubt it.”

For the second time that night, she’s utterly speechless. The idea that everything he’s saying was completely accurate. She did treat him like that. She never gave him a chance to explain himself, had always blamed him for some indiscretion. Never the media. Never the other person. Always him.

She doesn’t realise how long she’s remained silent until he pipes up again.

“Fuck this. I’m going to play my PS5,” he grunts, walking towards the door. “Maybe you should sleep upstairs again. Wouldn’t want to disappoint you by, ya know, fucking snoring or scratching my balls or something.”

He storms out the door as she stands there silently dumbfounded.

“Goddammit, Gerri,” she whispers to herself.  

Chapter Text

She robotically goes back to the bedroom to finish packing her case, barely even thinks of anything as she neatly rolls each item and tucks it into each of the suitcases. Her mind remains blank as she considers the coats she wants to take with her, zipping up the garment bags and hanging them up by the front door when she’s decided.

Her wandering throughout the bedroom continues as she picks out yet another pair of pyjamas to take upstairs with her, the foresight to pick out an outfit for work tomorrow also. The consideration of picking out an outfit for the traveling tomorrow evening passes through her mind, though she remembers they had intended to come home to get everything together before they had left.

It’s only as she considers this that it all hits her.

Where they still going to go? Was it even a good idea at this rate? Was her being here a good idea at this rate? Each conversation she attempted to have to mend this wound seemed to further cut it open, both of them bleeding out so much that it was only a matter of time until both of them became too lifeless to continue.

She wonders if this was worse than the arguments she used to have with Baird. Roman fought her back and that she at least she could respect. Baird on the other hand in the few times they had come to blows would just let her shout it out until her lungs were empty, until her voice was hoarse from intelligently annihilating him, his irritatingly calm nodding the only signal he was still breathing. Roman though, in his own different way made it impossible to have any chance of a rational conversation. He was too wounded, too angry, too self-conscious to calmly figure it all out alongside her. Ever defensive, ever sensitive, ever wounding with his harsh words as he blindly fought her.

Anxiety vs. numbness: what was the least debilitating for her?

With Roman she was in a state of heightened anxiety when they both tried to hash it out. No logic, no sound judgement, just pure emotional outbursts.

With Baird she may as well be arguing with a brick wall. No knowledge of how he felt, of if he was even listening, no assurance that he would ever change. With that came a numbness that you would likely get from screaming into a pillow; no promise that the issue would be resolved.

At least with Roman she knew why he was upset. He reminded her of an impetuous little jack in the box – hiding away being prompted and prompted until finally his true irks and fears exploded out.

That she decides she would take any day over the numbness her late husband’s muteness had brought. She couldn’t fix a problem she didn’t know about and not only that, she couldn’t fix it alone. That she was forever grateful for Roman’s ability to eventually voice his concerns.

She peaks through the crack in the living room door on her way upstairs, watches him sitting on his inflatable chair, large headphones on, battering his thumbs into the buttons of the controller as she’s pretty sure she sees a guy on the screen beating the shit out of someone on a sidewalk.

There’s a moment when she thinks she should go in, swallow her pride and throw all of her clothing on the couch, wrap her arms around him from behind and just squeeze until all her pent-up emotions were released. She imagines just giving him a huge kiss on his cheek, his stubble scraping against her lips, pressing her forehead into his temple, and promising him it was going to be okay and that they were going to work it all out.

But she doesn’t. Can’t stand the prospect of another argument. Her days were becoming too long, her sleep too short, her muscles too sore, her head too jumbled for that right now.

Instead she trudges up to her newfound bedroom, a bed which would soon overtake number of nights slept in than the one downstairs. She notices appraisingly that the room has been thoroughly cleaned: the bed perfectly made up, not a speck of dust on any inch of the surface, the streaks present in the carpeting from where they had likely vigorously vacuumed.

She considers his words from earlier as she brushes her teeth and changes into her pyjamas.

There had been no intention to treat him in the way he had described though she can see how it had come across that way. She wasn’t sure why she did it; hadn’t really known she was if she was being honest. Why did she rarely allowed him to explain any situation that had been perceived as him at fault? She didn’t see him as a moron, but maybe she had got so used to expecting him to make impetuous decisions which could be detrimental to them both. Only this morning she had admitted to herself that he had come a long way but yet had far to go.

There was no benefit of the doubt given to him though. There was no opportunity to find out if he had messed it up or not, she just assumed he had idiotically, naively done so. Why did she do that?

She wonders if it’s what’s she’s used to with him? If it’s what she’s used to with everyone at Waystar? If it’s what she was used to with Baird? If she’s used to being disappointed by people?

It was always just a natural habit for her to dominate people using different tactics – silence, shouting, interrupting. You name it and she had done it. It was customary at this rate to pinpoint which her opponent would post crumble under; she’d done it for so many years in her personal and professional life that it didn’t even require a thought process anymore. It was wrong to do it to him though and she would have to work on it.

The bedcovers are eventually pulled back, cosying into the pillows as she continues to ponder it all. Finally checks her phone one last time for any messages or emails that might need her urgent attention.

Just as she’s about to take her glasses off and reach for the bedside light she sees something flutter across the room, her eyes focussing to attempt to confirm what could be her worst fucking nightmare.

Confirmed.

Her heartbeat suddenly doubles as she pulls the covers back gasping, standing up on the bed, scraping her back against the headboard with a shriek as she sees one of the biggest fucking spiders she’s ever seen in her life moving across the carpet across the room from her.

“Roman! ROMAN!” She screams at the top of her voice, her hands firmly clutching the headboard she’s now leaning against as her whole body freezes and vibrates at the same time.

There was no way she could kill it. Her arachnophobia had never allowed that. The closest she had ever gotten was one of those aerosol cans that were supposed to kill them instantly while the cleaning service took care of them the next morning.  

Her eyes dart around the room to find some sort of escape, though there is none. It’s right next to the door and she’s in her bare feet, her shoes discarded near the bathroom door. She continues to keep her eyes on it, afraid that it will go out of sight; absolutely aware that if it did, she wouldn’t be able to sleep in this apartment tonight, never mind this room.

“ROMAN!” She screams again until she remembers his headphones.

Bending down to retrieve her phone, she quickly looks for his name, eyes flickering to the thing to make sure it’s still there as the phone rings.

“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” she repeats desperately as it continues to crawl again, her whole body contorting as the way it moves freaks her out.

As it goes to voicemail, she whimpers, tears almost coming to her eyes. Her shaky hands redial immediately, before tapping anxiously onto the bedframe, listening to each ring, begging for him to answer.

“What?” She finally hers him on the other end of the phone to her relief.

“Roman!” She shouts through a whimper. “There’s a spider here. Please come up here. Please.”

 

****

 

He’d been balls deep in Grand Theft Auto, happily killing people for the fun of it, stealing planes and helicopters as he expertly attempts to evade the police on a five-star wanted alarm when he sees her calling. Confusion fills him as he wonders why the fuck she’s phoning when she’s literally through the wall

Fuck her, she can come to him.

However, on the second phone call, he begins to wonder if she was even home. He’d had his headphones on the whole time. For all he knew she could have left a ‘Dear John’ note on the kitchen counter and fucked off back to her apartment.

When he answers the phone, he’s instantly panicked by her tone, rolling awkwardly off his inflatable chair when he hears the dreaded ‘S’ word.

“Where are you?” He asks irritated as his headphone wires attempt to strange him while he rips them off.

“Upstairs. First bedroom.”

“Okay. Okay. I’m coming,” he promises as he hangs up.

She’d told him about this phobia months ago and he had teased her about it.

Gerri Kellman afraid of fucking spiders, fuck off.

The whole thing had been laughed off and even severely ridiculed until there had been one in her bath not long after.

It had been one of the most insane things he had ever experienced. A full-blown panic attack as she had screamed several orders at him from the bedroom as he had been sent in on the mission to murder it. He wanted to just turn on the water and let it slide down the drain but that wasn’t in Gerri’s rule book. They had to be killed so they couldn’t come back. Not only did he have to kill it, but it had to be killed with something that could be disposed of. No shoes because they had to wear those, and it would spread it remnants all over her floor. No toilet paper to be flushed or she wouldn’t be able to use it for a few days. She hadn’t even used the bath until it was fully scrubbed by Maria herself the next day. It had to be something he could fully dispose of, far away from her so she would feel comfortable. Then and only then would she calm down.

He shifts around the kitchen on the way to the staircase, looking for anything that he could use, comes up with a quick plan as he takes the stairs two at a time, opening the first door quickly.

“I’m here, I’m here,” he reassures gently, looking around his feet for anything.

“No, no! Don’t move. It’s near the door! Don’t step on it!” She shouts quickly from her position on the bed.

He finally looks up to her and saw her terrified stance, her knuckles white from gripping the phone in her hand, her whole back pressed up against the headboard and wall trying to get as far away from it as possible. He hated seeing her like that the last time, but it was even worse this time. At least the last time she could leave the bathroom and get away from it but this time she was cornered.

Was this how she felt when he would have his panic attacks?

“Okay, it’s okay,” he says gently, holding his hands up to her. “Where is it? Tell me where it is?”

“It’s over there,” she whines and he doesn’t think he’s ever heard that tone in her voice before, doesn’t think he ever wants to hear it again. She’s pointing to the ground a few feet from him as he peaks his head around to see the huge fucker chilling out there.

He’d seen worse. They didn’t bother him at all. He grew up in England in a fucking manor surrounded basically by acres of forestry where these little fuckers used to happily prance around. They were able to get into every single crevice the high ceilings had to offer. He even got to the point where he enjoyed them, would name them and greet them each day. Boris was the longest lasting – thinks that little dude stayed for nearly a year before he just up and left one day. Not even a goodbye.

“Okay,” he sighs, looking up to her quickly. “I’m here now, so why don’t you get out of here?”

“No! I can’t!” She wails back as though he were insane. “What if it comes towards me?”

“Okay. Give me a second then,” he says walking calmly into the room towards the toilet.

“What are you doing?” She screams panicked, looking between the creature and Roman. “Where are you going?”

“Trust me, okay?” He says softly as he comes out of the bathroom with a piece of toilet roll in his hand.

She nods quickly as she sees him approach the thing and crush it into the paper, her whole-body shivering at the prospect of him being in such close proximity to it.

When he stands up with the dead thing in the crushed toilet paper in his hand, her eyes go wide, her panic rising further.

“Is it dead?”

“Yup,” he confirms, looking over his shoulder to the bathroom as her panic further soars.

“You can’t put it down the toilet! I fucking told you that you can’t do that before!”

“It’s okay. I’m going to get rid of it,” he says gently again, walking out of the room calmly and into the second spare bedroom to flush it down that toilet, making sure it was definitely gone.

When he returns, her whole body is still tense, her eyes darting to look at the walls around her, the visible shudders passing through her body as she continues to clutch onto the headboard around her. His heart thaws for her, a grown woman looking like a petrified small child as though there was a confirmed monster under the bed.

“It’s gone,” he assures her tenderly as her head snaps towards him.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. It’s gone.”

“Where is it?”

“Spare bedroom bathroom. It’s definitely gone. I promise.”

He can see the sigh of relief leave her body though her head continues to dart to the walls around her, her hands randomly flicking around her neck batting what he sures is nothing away.

“I keep thinking there’s one on me,” she explains as he watches her.

“Come on,” he says sensitively moving towards her and holding out his hand. “Come downstairs and I’ll get you a drink. Get something to calm your nerves, hmm?”

She looks at him as though she’s about to cry, at the situation or his kindness, he isn’t sure, but he just wants to get her out of here.

“Can you get my shoes,” she chokes out, pointing to them from across the room.

“Yeah, sure,” he smiles, walking to pick them up.

“Check inside them to make sure there isn’t another one in them,” she instructs alarmingly.

“Nothing there,” he guarantees after checking and holding them out to her.

He helps her climb off the bed after she puts them on, her hand crushing his own. He leads her out with a hand on her waist as she practically sprints towards the door, her whole-body writhing when they get to the landing.

 

“You want a coffee or tea?” He asks when she settles on the couch in the living room, still flicking at the baby hairs tickling her neck. “Or something stronger?”

“Strongest thing we have,” she answers, putting her head in her hands as she tries to silently encourage her heart to slow down.

He wordlessly pours them both a drink, listens to her breathy thank you when he passes her it before sitting on the coffee table in front of her, simply watching as she gulps half the glass down.

“You okay?” He asks, settling a hand on her knee, rubbing there reassuringly as he sees the glass she’s holding shake in her trembling hand.

“Yeah,” she sighs. “I just hate them. No wonder it was there. Room probably hasn’t ever been cleaned properly until today. Fucking cleaners,” she bites as she takes another huge gulp, both of her hands supporting the glass.

“I wonder how it even got up here. We’re like a mile from the ground,” he titters.

“They find a way,” she groans as she swallows the burning liquid.

She jumps again, swiping her hair away from the side of her neck.

“Hey,” he smiles. “It’s okay. You want me to check there’s none on you? Or you can go for a shower and get into new pyjamas?”

“No, it’s okay. I just need a minute,” she sighs exhausted, embarrassedly hunched over onto her knees, looking at the floor between her legs, taking in a huge breath as she tries to control her breathing.

He leans forward, wrapping his palm around the back of her neck and placing a kiss to her crown.

“You’re okay,” he tries to soothe, his fingers petting the side of her neck as she further sighs, her shoulders dropping some of the tension.

They must sit like that for ten minutes, simply listening to each other’s breathing, his chin resting on the back of her head as she clutches her glass, until she breaks the silence, sitting up slowly to look at him.

“I should go back to bed,” she declares, standing and putting the empty glass on the coffee table next to him.

“You really think you’ll be able to go back in there?”

She falters for a minute, the knowledge that she was going to get no sleep in there tonight, that she would imagine every speck in her flawed vision as another one of them – their family coming to tangle themselves in her hair to get vengeance.

There is no longer the option of the spare room, not that now that’s where the dead carcass was.

“Come back to bed,” he coaxes, lifting his hand to take hers as he watches her silently war within herself. “There’s none in there. It gets cleaned to regularly.”

She bites her upper lip considering it, looks towards the living room door as she ventures whether that was a good idea given their issues from before.

“I can sleep on the couch in here,” she suggests, looking back down to the couch instead of his sad eyes looking up to her.

“No,” he protests immediately. “If anyone’s gonna sleep in here, it’s gonna be me. You take the bed if you want to sleep alone.”

Her eyes finally meet his, the hurt etched there so obvious.

“I was more thinking that if one showed up,” he continues quietly. “I’d be right there to get it for you. That’s all. But I can keep the door open here so I can hear you if you need me.”

She looks down to his innocent smile, the feeling of his thumb suddenly rubbing the back of her hand so comforting. How could he be so sweet when only a few hours ago they had been tearing one another apart? Relationships – there was no rhyme nor reason.  

“Okay,” she whispers, her fear too overwhelming not to accept the invitation.

“You want me on the couch?”

She shakes her head from side to side slowly.

“No,” she breathes.

 

****

 

He had run upstairs to get her charger on her request and fully inspected their bedroom before she had come in, though she ended up fully inspecting it herself anyway before she would even consider getting into the bed.

The situation seems so unusual as they lay in the dark room on opposite sides of the bed from each other, barely a word uttered between them; the tension palpable. Both of them were lying flatly on their backs, her head quickly flitting to walls every now and then as he obscurely watched her, listening to her sharp gasps when he thought she had seen something, then her sighs of relief when she realised it was her imagination.

“Try and sleep, babe,” he says into the room, still staring at the ceiling. “There’s nothing here. I promise.”

She feels her eyes close for the first time since she had dared to lie down, her mind wandering back to their argument, to all the bullshit that had been instantly ignored the minute all this came into play, to how quickly he had pushed that aside and moved into the leadership role of taking care of her, to how her heart bursts for loving him.

The possibilities arise and get vetoed in her head of how she’s going to approach this, of how she’s going to say everything she had been previously thinking, decides on the simple.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, her hands folding over on her stomach.

“Don’t be. You can’t help being scared of it. Probably the most common phobia in the world.”

“Not for that,” she explains quietly, one thumb caressing the other. “Do I really make you feel like that? Like a fuck up?”

She hears the huge sigh fall from his lips, her eyes finally chancing a glance at him to see his torn expression.

“Maybe,” he admits shyly. “More in the past week than ever before, I think. It’s very new.”

She looks back to the ceiling, exhaling slowly as she hears his calm and collected confession, not something untrue said in the heat of an argument.

“It’s not that fucking bad,” he tries to backtrack. “I don’t sit and fucking ponder over it before I go to sleep or anything. It just kind of occurred to me today because I was angry. I didn’t realise it at the time or anything. Thought it was me just thinking I was a fuck up because I always think that.”

He was trying to make her feel better about it and somehow that was even more heartbreaking.

“You’re not a fuck up and I’m sorry I ever perpetuated the idea that you were. I don’t think that about you.”

“It’s not like I’ve not deserved it, Gerri. I have done loads of stupid shit. The thing with Tabs. Getting drunk and hugging in the street was fucking tactless, I know that now.”

“It wasn’t really,” she sighs. “You’re right and I admit that. I jumped to conclusions that it was your fault, but it wasn’t. It was the fucking press being vultures trying to sell shitty stories as they always do. I can’t blame you for that.”

“But I know I need to be aware of them. And you were right about me saying you were cunty when you were cutting me off. It was genuinely an accident, but it was me being a fucking idiot.”

“I was being cunty though,” she admits strongly, biting her lip as a tear runs down her eye, her hand deliberately not wiping it away, so she didn’t draw his attention to it. “Though I don’t invite you to call me it in future. I was asking you to explain yourself and then not giving you the chance to. I didn’t even realise I was doing it. That wasn’t fair of me.”

“You were angry, I get it,” he groans as he rolls onto his side so he can gauge her, still far enough away from her, but close enough to try and figure out this kind of self-depreciating tone he’d never heard from her before. That wasn’t Gerri.

“You said earlier that you shut Tabitha down about our sex life, but she wouldn’t stop?”

“Yeah,” he sighs, his hand fidgeting with the pillowcase under him. “Tabitha is just very that. Very open and free with sex and talking about it and shit, which is why we just didn’t work. Made me fucking bleugh. But she asked about us and I wouldn’t tell her anything. I told her that you didn’t want me talking about it. Simply revealed that it happens, and it works because it’s you, but that’s all. Only so she knew that me and you weren’t like me and her where it was some fucking platonic friendship or something. Was trying to make it obvious to her that it was real, not some ploy.”

“Right,” she sighs, bringing her hand up to her forehead, rubbing vigorously as the guilt rushes through her. So there was a simple explanation, though she knew that she never would have listened last night.

“I genuinely didn’t say anything more. She started like spouting; asking if I knew how to get you off because she obviously didn’t think I even knew how to do that. Started rhyming off shit about g-spots, foreplay, and fucking lubrication, which I almost hurled at. I told her to fucking stop which she eventually did. But she ended it on how I need to drive you crazy by fucking edging you and sometimes you’ll just want a rough fuck, which is what I mentioned yesterday. This is all while I was begging her to shut the fuck up might I add.”

“Okay,” she whispers, another tear falling.

“Okay?” He asks confused.

“I should have let you explain that instead of cutting you off,” she says quietly. “And I’m sorry Tabitha asked you all those questions. Made you feel like you were lesser or something.”

“Nah, that’s just Tabitha. Always fishing for the sexy goss.”

“Though, you might not want to mention it next time when you’re trying to fuck me, with your tongue down my throat,” she adds with a small smile.

“Yeah,” he laughs a little. “That was fucking stupid.”

“A little.”

“No wait!” He shouts, leaning up onto his elbow as she startles, looking around to him quickly while he thinks. “I told her something else. Wait, I’m trying to remember what. I don’t want to get this wrong. She was asking if it started with you when we were still together.”

“Fuck,” she groans. “I didn’t even think of that.”

“Yeah, me fucking either,” he huffs. “Try explaining what happened to someone when you’re not allowed to talk about sex at the same time by the way. It’s not fucking easy.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Yes and no was what I believe I settled on.”

“Oh, Roman,” she says shaking her head exasperated.

“Yeah, I think I told her it was suggestive but like not sex, and she was just getting more confused. So, I think I said that I jacked off to your voice and you knew about it.”

“Jesus,” she sighs, looking at the ceiling.

“I had to tell her something. I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just embarrassing. It was cheating if you want to label it. I’ve never been the other woman.”

“To be honest, I don’t think I even thought about that either.”

“Do you think she’ll tell anyone? That it started so long ago.”

“Nah. Not Tabs. She’s not like that.”

“Good,” she sighs in relief, watching the shadows on the ceiling.

“So, you’re not pissed at me for it?”

“No,” she confirms. “Though, I believe you were very much at me today. Even accused me of being selfish and not backing you up.”

“I was angry,” he says half muffled into the pillow as he rolls onto his stomach, a tiny bit closer to her.

“I will always have your back. No matter what. I always have,” she says staunchly, looking around to him.

“I know,” he whines. “I was fucked off.”

“I wasn’t trying to get you to press charges and go public with it because of my own self-interest, Rome. I swear to that,” she tells him softly before lying onto her own side to face him. “I was thinking of you.”

“But you know how I feel about it, Gerri,” he whines. “You know how it’s going to fuck me.”

“I don’t agree with how it’s going to fuck you. That I simply can’t admit to, but I shouldn’t have pushed the issue. It’s you that it’s going to affect. It’s your story and you need to do that when you’re ready, if you’re ever going to be ready. I had no right to force you,” she says quietly, watches as the light from the city glistens in his eyes.

“It’s going to affect you too,” he says quietly. “You said that yourself.”

“Yeah, it might,” she admits. “But not to the extent it will you. I just don’t want you to get further hurt. That’s all. I saw the further damage these photos could do, and I got so livid at how unfair it would be if they painted you as this guy I know you’re not.”

“I just can’t right now, Gerri,” he whispers. “I don’t know if I ever can.”

“I know, honey,” she whispers back, reaching her hand out slowly to cup his cheek, stroking her thumb across it gently. “I’m here for whatever decision you make. I won’t bring it up again. You just let me know if you want to, okay?”

“Okay,” he breathes, pushing up into her warm palm, pressing a quick kiss to her wrist.

“C’mere,” she says gently as he quickly shuffles over to her, dives his nose and lips into her soft neck as he inhales the remnants of that scent he was unsure he would ever have up close ever again while he tightens his grip around her, her own hands firmly rubbing his back.

“I’m sorry,” he vibrates against her. “For saying the shit about you doing it for CEO and being selfish and shit. I didn’t mean it.”

“Me neither, Rome,” she says, kissing his temple. “We all say things we don’t mean, and they can be so cutting. We need to try not to do that.”

“I know, I know,” he says peppering kisses to her neck apologetically again, tightening his grip even stronger. “I won’t fuck it up again.”

“Hey,” she barks. “You didn’t fuck it up. Don’t say that. We both said hurtful things and we both need to do better.”

“I will, Gerri. I promise. I don’t want to fight anymore.”

She’s silent after that, the thought that she had contributed to his doubt of his self-worth too much bear.

“I’m so sorry, Rome,” she whispers, her lips crushing into his head.

“Gerri, don’t,” he protests whining, pulling back from her to see her glistening eyes.

“No,” she sniffs. “I didn’t mean to be like that. To make you feel like that. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I don’t think you’re a fuck up. I really don’t.”

“Don’t fucking cry,” he begs with a groan, leaning in to kiss her lips quickly, pushing her hair back from her face as she strokes the back of his neck. “I always think I’m a fuck up.”

“Not because of me, though.”

“It’s not you that makes me think that. Shit, I never should have said that.”

“No, but it’s true. I don’t give you the benefit of the doubt.”

“Gerri, come on man,” he half laughs. “I wouldn’t even give me the benefit of the doubt. Have you heard half of my hair brained ideas?”

“Stop. Don’t say that.”

“I thought maybe this whole living together thing wasn’t working out. That I fucked it,” he admits sheepishly, his eyes trying to make out every part of her face in the dark that he had already committed to memory.

“No,” she protests quickly. “Not at all.”

“Thought maybe you’d ran back to your apartment when you called me earlier.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she whispers, pecking his lips softly. “Especially not for some stupid arguments.”

“But it’s been constant.”

“It’s been a hard time and people argue, but I never thought about leaving. Never. It’ll get better.”

He leans forward gently, offering a loving kiss that she returns immediately, tightening her grasp around his neck as she pulls him harder to her.

“I thought you didn’t love me anymore,” he whispers against her lips, further enticing her, though she pulls back a little.

“You might be a pain in my ass sometimes,” she pauses with a peck. “But I’ll never stop loving you. Ever.”

She plunges back into the kiss, pouring every ounce of love she can into it to convince him.

“I love you so much,” he murmurs into her mouth until he has to pull back for air, her hand pushing through his hair as she relishes in him surrounding her.

“Some time away from all this in Vienna might be exactly what we need right now,” she observes gently as he takes in the feeling of her cheek against his lips.

“We’re still going?”

“Don’t you want to?”

“Yeah,” he says quickly. “I want to go. I still want to go.”

“Well good,” she snickers. “Because we leave in less than 24 hours. I won’t deny there was a minute back there that I thought we might not. That you wouldn’t want to after today.”

“No, I do. I still need to pack though.”

“How long will it take you to get everything together?”

“Not long. Hour max? I can leave work early tomorrow and do it.”

She pulls back from him, takes a moment to look into his eyes with a smirk.

“You can’t pack an hour before we leave for a different continent Roman, honestly.”

“Yeah, I fucking can. Do it all the time,” he laughs, chancing another peck to her lips that she returns quickly.

“Let’s just do it now,” she declares, waiting for his inevitable protest.

“I would rather do this,” he flirts, kissing her harder this time, pushing her firmer into the pillows, allowing it for a minute until she pushes him off with a laugh.

“I won’t be able to relax until I know you’re fully packed and ready to go,” she admits with a cute as fuck smile that has him huffing into her chest.

“You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

“No.”

He groans even louder rolling off of her as she reaches for the lamp to light the entire room.

“You gave in one hundred times quicker than I expected.”

“I know when I’m whipped,” he groans as she jumps out the bed, not checking the floor for a dreaded creature he notices happily.